Cipinang penitentiary: From chicken farms to drugs

People who like to eat out at KFC would never have imagined that it had something to do with Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta.

It's not that the franchiser of this famous American fast food chain is involved in any crime.

The prison has a chicken farm and its products are sent to KFC, thanks to Ricardo Gelael, commissioner and executive of PT Goro Batara Sakti and a business associate of former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra.

Gelael and Tommy, who is currently a fugitive, were sentenced by the Supreme Court last year to 18 months in jail for their role in a land exchange deal scandal between PT Goro and State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

Gelael has reportedly spent some Rp 1 billion to develop the farm, which now has some 5,000 chickens, according to Tengku Ismuhadi, a suspect in the bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange building.

Ismuhadi said that Gelael also helps distribute the chickens, which are sold at Rp 8,000 to Rp 8,500 per kilogram.

"Some of the chickens are sent to the KFC outlets located at Gelael Supermarkets belonging to Ricardo,"" Ismuhadi said.

Ismuhadi said an inmates association called Kawabi, led by Budi -- a member of the Golkar Party's youth wing Pemuda Pancasila and also serving a jail sentence for premeditated murder, along with the prison guards, work together to develop the farm.

The project, however, has resulted in social envy among other inmates and penitentiary employees who are not involved in the business.

Early this year, the employees staged a demonstration before the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights over the special treatment received by some rich inmates, especially Gelael, as they are allowed to have cell phones and televisions in their cells.

They also complained about their poor salary and demanded better conditions and benefits.

Ministry data shows that the employees receive a monthly salary of between Rp 700,000 to Rp 900,000, excluding allowances of between Rp 35,000 and Rp 75,000.

Chicken is not the only commodity in the penitentiary, as some inmates also raise goldfish and sell it at Rp 8,000 per kilogram. Even Ismuhadi, along with another six inmates in his cell, has goldfish.

Ismuhadi's cellmate, Sayuti, said that many inmates also owned cell phones and even rented them. He declined to reveal the price, but earlier reports said that a cell phone was rented for Rp 2,500 per 30 seconds.

Sayuti said his cell phone, along with dozens of others belonging to other inmates, was confiscated by police in a recent raid. He said the police might misuse the cell phones as the inmates did not sign any dossier that could be used as evidence that their belongings were confiscated.

Besides raising and selling chicken and fish and renting cell phones, there is porn VCD rental business at the Cipinang Penitentiary. However, this is not as serious as the drug transactions in the prison, that reportedly could amount to Rp 20 million (US$2,000) per day.

Both Ismuhadi and Sayuti, a former drug dealer, claimed to know nothing about the business, saying that "we are no longer dealing with them (the drug dealers) as they conduct their business clandestinely here."

The issue came to surface when the new Cipinang Penitentiary chief warden Ngusman said that most of the criminals dealing with drugs were sent to the penitentiary and recreated a ""drug dealer syndicate"" there.

"I can say that the narcotics business here has become such 'a syndicate' that no one can touch them.

"In many cases, I admit that the prison guards might be involved due to two reasons: they have a low income or they are frightened,"" Ngusman told caretaker Minister of Justice and Human Rights Mahfud MD on Friday, as the Minister joined the Friday prayers in the prison building.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights R.A. Tjapah said that inmates usually obtain the drugs from their friends or families who visit them.

"The guards cannot detect them as they hide the drugs in the heels of their shoes, or in their underwear. Should they hide it in the meals they bring for the inmates, we can detect it as procedures require us to inspect food brought in from outside the jail," Tjapah said.

He also said that sometimes the visitors hid sharp weapons in their sandals, which were then swapped with the inmates' sandals.

"If the state cannot increase the number of personnel, I guess they must provide us with a metal detector," Tjapah said.

Cipinang Penitentiary was built to accommodate only 1,700 inmates, but it currently houses some 2,300 inmates.

It has 160 guards, who work in four shifts round the clock.

Brawls among inmates often occur and there are also cases of escapes.

In response to such concerns, Mahfud said that he would leave a note for the new Minister of Justice and Human Rights to establish a new penitentiary to especially house drug criminals.

"I think, establishing one more jail is necessary as I have also been informed that this place is overcrowded," Mahfud, who is also caretaker Minister of Defense, said.

*Published by The Jakarta Post in April 2001