AndrewChan and Myuran Sukumaran are shining examples of prison rehabilitation and should be displayed with pride by the Indonesian government, not shot down in history, write Dr Clarke Jones and James Giggacher
Leaders of the Bali nine drug smuggling ring, AndrewChan and Myuran Sukumaran, will soon be transferred fromKerokoban prison. It is the first step in their last walk to the firing squad.
The two are nowmore than likely to be taken out to a field on Nusakambangan, a prison island off central Java, and shot dead. Butwhile there has been a delay to themove, there is no stay of execution. Like manyAustralians, we think that stay should come. And it’s not just becausewe are opposed to the death penalty. It’s because ofwhat the two reformed prisoners can do in Indonesia’swar on drugs if kept alive, and thewasted opportunity their execution will represent. Besides the horror of the death penalty, there is so much unnecessary tragedy in this case.
Some of it rests on the shoulders of theAustralian Federal Police who, possibly in letting decisions to strengthen their relationship with Indonesian counterparts cloud their judgment, clearly could have prevented this pending tragedy. There is of course a dangerous and ignorant mood among theAustralian public that the two men deserve what’s coming – they’vemade their beds, inwhich they should nowforever lie.
Alot of it also rests with Indonesia president Joko ‘‘Jokowi’’ Widodo,whose cruel lack of compromise and desire to clear out the prisons has seen him categorically turn downany chance of clemency – even though this potentially flouts Indonesian law. Jokowi has a policy of denying clemency for all drug offenders.
Indonesian legal teams are now scrambling a submission to the administrative court, arguing that the president can’t deny clemency based on sweeping policy, but must consider each case individually. His hardline stance isn’t just about trying to win some breathing space with an electorate inwhich the vastmajority is disappointed with his presidency.Hemay be also trying to distract them fromongoing corruption scandals, the persistence of cronyism and his inability to break free fromthe shackles of his political benefactor Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Most significantly, though, the president has announced awar on drugs,which he sees as decimating the nation.The drug ‘‘crisis’’ is described by Jokowi as a ‘‘national emergency’’.
According to him, 4.5 million Indonesians need to be rehabilitated fromillicit or illegal drug use, and 40 to 50 young people die from drugs each day. This data has shownto be dodgy. Even so, it tempers much of Jokowi’s thinking on the need for rehabilitation. And here’swhere another perspective on rehabilitation comes in. In Chan and Sukumaran, the president not only has clear examples of rehabilitation, but effective tools for combating the scourge of drug smuggling in his own country and rehabilitating those citizens most in need.
This is in part because of the characteristics and qualities of the Indonesian prison system. Let’s just say that the twowere, with the rest of the Bali nine, allowed to board flights forAustralia and nabbed by theAFPinstead of Indonesia’sNational Police. Serving up to 10 years in anAustralian prison,would they have been reformed? With a recidivism rate of more than 50 per cent and the sterile security conditions that commonly lead to psychological distress and not change, probably not.That might lead one to assume that something about their time in Kerobokan prison contributed to their reformation, something they would more than likely not have experienced here inAustralia. What can be learnt fromthis hypothesis? Chan and Sukumaran’s experiences showgenuine signs of rehabilitation. So howcould this rehabilitation occur in Kerobokan prison,which is claimed to be a ‘‘hell hole’’? By default and not by design, prisons like Kerobokan share many positive aspects that are often overlooked by contemporary prison reformists.
As Indonesian corrections don’t have the resources to care or provide for inmates, the inmates take it upon themselves to fund and run their own rehabilitation programs. There is also more buy in from NGOswho also support the inmate programs and the amazing support structures that are created by inmates in prisons in developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.
These include their own businesses to support themselves and their families,which keep them occupied and sometimes away from criminal pursuits. In the end, in some cases, the prison community becomes a natural environment for rehabilitation.Astudy on recidivism in Indonesiamay paint a more accurate picture as precise figures are hard to come by.
Of course, corruption, criminality and drug running remain very real issues. Chan and Sukumaran demonstrate a clear sense of remorse and with it the chance of redemption. If rehabilitated returning fighters can be used to help dissuade other young men from making the same mistake,why can’t convicted and remorseful drug smugglers do the same? Beyond howunpalatable the notionmay be to many, this is yet another reason it is a real shame the two will be executed: here are clear examples of successful rehabilitation that should be held high with pride by the Indonesian government, not shot downin history. Instead, their execution could potentially dampen other inmates’ enthusiasm to reform or change in Indonesia. In all prisons, hope is critical for moral and rehabilitation, especially in under-resourced prisonswhere conditions are harsh.
In this case, as with many more, the death penalty is no silver bullet solution, and in fact hits terribly wide of the mark. There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any real deterrence value.
One thing is for certain, if Chan and Sukumaran are executed, other drug offenders will be deterred fromrehabilitation.These two men,whomade one terrible, foolish mistakewhile young, offer a glimpse on howJokowi’swar on drugs can bewon without having to lose more lives . . . and without having to fire a single shot.
Dr Clarke Jones is a researcher on prison radicalisation and reform, and JamesGiggacher is Asia-Pacific editor at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.