I recently ventured out of the US prison system for the first time on this blog, talking about visiting Dartmoor Prison in the UK. The facility dates back to the early 19th century and has a history associated with the United States. This centuries-old prison actually housed American prisoners of war from the War of 1812!
For this week’s post, I thought I’d continue this trend of learning about prisons outside of the United States. Today, I’m going to answer this question – can you visit the notorious Kerobokan Jail in Bali?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Kerobokan jail dubbed ‘Hotel K’
- What is the inside of Kerobokan Prison like?
- Volunteer tourism is new trend at Kerobokan Prison
Kerobokan jail dubbed ‘Hotel K’
The Kerobokan Penitentiary Institution (aka LP Kerobokan or Kerobokan Prison) is commonly known as the K Hotel.This is partly thanks to the book The K Hotel: The Amazing Inside Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Prison By Kathryn Bonella.
Described as “a description of one of the world’s most notorious prisons for drug smugglers,” the book offers insight into the notorious prison and why it’s called “Hell on Earth.”
“At first I was in shock,” Bonera told irish times“Totally shocked. The first time I walked in, it was daunting. Indeed. The inmates were all mixed together, not sure who was a pedophile, who was a rapist, who was a drug dealer. In fact, the killers would take me out Calling me a cab, or using their phone to hail a cab for me — that sort of thing was exciting at first.”
Opened in 1979, K Hotel can accommodate 300 inmates and is located just minutes from tourist hotspot Canggu (surf mecca) on the Indonesian island of Bali. However, as of 2017, the prison housed more than 1,400 male and female prisoners of various nationalities.
More than 90 percent of prisoners are Indonesians, and 78 percent of them have convictions for drug offences.
Police Commissioner Ruddi Setiawan Tell Mamma Mia in Australia, “We advise tourists, locals and foreigners to come here for holidays. Don’t come for drug parties or do drugs. If foreigners resist, we will take firm action. We will not show mercy.”
What is the inside of Kerobokan Prison like?
In Bonera’s book, she describes the culture inside Kerobokan Prison as extremely dark. To tourists, Kerobokan looks like a cheap hotel, she said. Inmates spend hours each day roaming around the facility. She said some prisoners paid to decorate their cells and bribed guards to gain certain privileges.
In one scene, the author recalls: “When Schapelle Corby discovers a prisoner hanged with a noose, she barely reacts. Bali Nine (see below) Scott Rush does not hesitate to help the guards Dragging a dead body from his cell to the path of his cell; the dead prisoner covered in vomit and flies…”
Bonella also writes about murders in prisons that appear to be suicides. She also explores the corruption of the prison, which distributes only $1 per prisoner per day.
She told stories of “wild sex nights” where men paid sex workers to enter Kerobokan and inmates took turns paying out of their pockets to the cheers of their guards.
“These men,” she wrote, “share a squat toilet, often clogged with feces, and the cell reeks. Poor locals will be locked up in this cell for months without a single release.”
Some prisoners slept on hard tile or concrete floors in 100-degree heat, their limbs tangled with those of strangers. Up to 40 to 50 prisoners will sleep in a room with blankets, pillows and mosquito nets provided by the charity.
In terms of food, prisoners are given two slices of old bread, two eggs and a small amount of vegetables every day. They have to rely on charity for real nutrition.
Bonera also claimed in her book that Kerobokan was addicted to drugs. But current inmates say that is no longer the case.
“No. At least not now,” said one prisoner. “You know, people think this place is the center of the party, but it’s not.”
Volunteer tourism is new trend at Kerobokan Prison
If you are the family of an inmate, you could theoretically visit Kerobokan Gaol, but in recent years a new travel trend has emerged called ‘volunteer tourism’. Nearly 2 million people go on vacation each year to find meaning and purpose in their travels.
From teaching English in India to building schools in Africa, volunteer tourism has been a growing trend, but it’s taken an odd turn in Bali. That’s because tourists line up at Kerobokan Prison so they can spend time inside.
according to australian newsThe distance from Canggu to Kerobokan Prison is only four kilometers, but due to “narrow streets and traffic jams” on the island, it takes nearly an hour to get there by taxi.
Visiting hours are 9 am to noon during the week, but generally, you must know that someone is being held in the facility to go through security.
You cannot bring anything into the facility – cell phones, laptops, money, guns, drugs or alcohol. Visitors must also dress appropriately, and all documents that visitors must fill out to enter the interior are written in Bahasa Indonesia.
Even if you manage to get in, there is no guarantee that the inmate you want to see will come to the visiting room without knowing you.
Obviously, the biggest question people face is – why would anyone want to be in this prison? Especially if you don’t know anyone in it.
Tasmanian tourist Malcolm Kenzie, who was visiting a friend of a friend, explained it this way.
“My brother was in prison for two years, so I know how painful it can be for prisoners who don’t feel like they have a solid footing,” he told australian news“So, I’m here to show them they’re not forgotten. If I were in their shoes, I’d like someone to reach out to me.”
The Bali Nine is also attractive. They were a group of Australians who were convicted in 2005 of attempting to smuggle 18 pounds of heroin from Indonesia into Australia.
Leaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death and executed in 2015. The other six members, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush and Martin Stephens, were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Indonesian authorities reported in 2018 that Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen died of stomach cancer.
Another member of the group, Renae Lawrence, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, she was released after her sentence was commuted in 2018.
Adrian is an Australian living in Bali and a member of IndonesiaAid. They are a charity that provides friendship and support to inmates at Hotel K. Adrian is very critical of tourists who visit K Hotel just to visit with members of one of the Bali Nine.
“Some people came to visit them to show off, but after they were executed, the hordes just disappeared. They had no interest in seeing other inmates who didn’t have celebrity status. From a Christian point of view, it was a bit demeaning .”
Would you like to visit Kerobokan Prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Rats, crazy sex nights and shared squat toilets.Interior of Kerobokan Prison in Bali
behind the prison walls
Bali jailbreak: US prisoner escapes notorious Kerobokan jail
K Hotel: The Dark Heart of Bali
How Tourists Enter Bali’s Kerobokan Prison