Indonesian rage over luxury jail cells for wealthy

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — It’s a bedroom most poor Indonesians can only dream about — air conditioned with a spacious double bed, flat-screen television, private bathroom, adjoining karaoke suite and serviced by maids and assistants.

But this bedroom is actually the prison cell of a woman serving a five-year sentence for bribing an Indonesian prosecutor.

News that business tycoon Artalyta Suryani had bought comfort behind bars using the same tactics for which she was punished has enraged ordinary Indonesians and embarrassed authorities in a country already known as one of the world’s most corrupt.

The details of the luxury living conditions of Suryani and other rich prisoners have been splashed across the front pages of national newspapers and dominated television coverage this week, the result of a surprise visit to Jakarta Pondok Bambu women’s penitentiary by a team set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to eradicate the so-called “Judicial Mafia.”

“We found a number of wealthy inmates had been provided with exclusive facilities,” team member Denny Indrayana said Wednesday. “They allegedly paid some corrupt individuals in the prison to get all they want. It shows the weakness of our judicial system.”

Suryani was sharing her 8-by-8 meter (26-by-26 foot) room with her adopted child, who slept in a cot and was cared for by a full-time nanny.

A normal Indonesian prison cell is a cement cubicle a fraction of the size, often shared by dozens of inmates. Overcrowding is a serious and widespread problem.

Other perks in Suryani’s cell included unlimited and unregistered visitors, private drivers to collect and drop off goods, beauty treatments, a private office with leather chairs and sofas, Tempo magazine reported.

“This total madness,” Tri Agustine, a Facebook user, said in a posting on the popular social networking site. “Corruptors will not be deterred for committing graft again and again if the prison cells provided are like this.”

Suryani has reportedly been moved to a general population cell, shared with three other prisoners, since the details became public.

“Investigation into other prisons is now under way to eradicate such practices,” said Untung Sugiyono, director general of prisons at the Justice Ministry.