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Authors: Kathryn Bonella

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BOOK: Hotel Kerobokan
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That night was a massacre. They demolished me. They broke my lips and my nose; they broke my head in two places. It was so fast. They were using wood, punches, whatever. But the worst was the guy with a solid wooden bench. It broke my nose here and here. It was very bad
.

– Ruggiero

A guard told a couple of prisoners to carry Ruggiero to an isolation cell in another block, where he was soon lying in a pool of his own blood. His head and body were bleeding profusely. In his semi-conscious state he knew he was badly hurt, and feebly called out that he needed a doctor. The jail boss came across to the cell but simply stood at the door and mocked him.

Asshole. He didn’t give a fuck about us if we die. I was in a small cell lying on the floor, full of blood and he says, ‘Doctor, yeah, I’ll bring a doctor’. Then he sat in the block, smoking a cigarette and laughing
.

Did a doctor come?

Course not
.

– Ruggiero

A month later, the Brazilian made headlines for his audacious escape attempt. It had taken that long for the guards to discover that the bars in his former cell were being held in place by glue. Ruggiero copped another beating but this time the guards didn’t have to work too hard to hurt him, as his injuries from the last round were not yet healed. As the cell
tikus
punishment cells were full, Ruggiero was put in the maximum-security tower with the terrorists Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, who had been sentenced to death for their part in the Bali bombings in 2002.

Ruggiero could not have been further from his old life.

You put a lion in a small cage and don’t feed him well; he’s going to become an angry lion. That’s what happened to me
.

– Ruggiero

CHAPTER 8
THE WOMEN’S BLOCK

‘Nita, Nita, somebody drink insecticide,’ anguished voices carried across Block W from Room 9. All one hundred women were locked up for the night, padlocked in their cells. ‘Nita, help!’ The desperate cries easily reached Nita’s cell as she settled in for the night on her mattress, watching television. She yelled back, ‘I’ll call security,’ as she quickly grabbed her mobile phone.

Moments earlier, in Room 9, 30-year-old inmate Dani had stumbled out of the small washroom flopping like a rag doll with vomit pouring out of her mouth. Instantly she had the attention of her nine cellmates, who looked up to see Dani’s eyes rolling back and her legs collapsing as she crashed onto the concrete floor. Panic hit. Some of the women curled up sobbing. Some started praying feverishly. Others called out to Nita as they leaped from their thin mattresses, surrounding Dani, clutching her trembling hands, whispering, ‘Don’t die, don’t die’.

One girl ran into the bathroom and saw two empty bottles of poison; one of insecticide spray and another of Vixal porcelain floor cleaner. Dani had drunk the contents of both. She needed a hospital fast, but it would be at least an hour before the guards arrived. The keys to Block W were held outside the jail after 4.30 pm lockup. The time it took for the guards to collect the keys, return to the jail and unlock the women’s block varied between one to three hours.

Tension filled every cell as the women listened to the sobbing and hysteria escalating in Room 9. No-one could do a thing. They were all trapped. They just had to wait as their fellow inmate’s life teetered on the brink. A bleak hour passed before a sound outside the steel door finally signalled the guards had arrived. Two men strode in and walked directly across to Nita’s cell and unlocked it. Nita burst out and ran like the wind down the path between the cells, ignoring the dozens of distraught faces pressing against the bars. As a
tamping
prisoner, Nita had dealt with several overdoses and was the most qualified to save Dani.

Once inside Room 9, Nita knelt down on the concrete floor beside her, snatching a nearby T-shirt to wipe the vomit off her face. She was unconscious, but still retching and gurgling a stream of frothy vomit from the corners of her mouth. Nita knew it was vital to get coconut milk into the woman’s stomach. But it would be difficult as Dani’s mouth was almost shut. Nita stuck two fingers between Dani’s teeth and turned them sideways to prise her mouth open. But it was hopeless – her jaw was too stiff and Nita merely got a nasty bite as Dani involuntarily bit down hard. Her body was now shaking and convulsing uncontrollably. Several cellmates were crouching around, trying to pin the thrashing limbs to the floor. Nita tried to pour the coconut milk into the slit of her mouth. It was useless. The milk just spilled across her face. Dani needed a doctor fast.

The guards stood around idly watching as a male
tamping
ran in with a stretcher. Nita and a few of the inmates lifted Dani onto it. With the help of the male prisoners who’d turned up, Nita carried the stretcher out of the cell, down the path past the locked cages of women now clinging to the bars, yelling, ‘What’s happened? What’s happened?’. Nita kept walking. The guards trailed alongside saying nothing. They hurried across the jail lawns to deliver the stretcher to an ambulance waiting out the front of the jail. It was the last time they’d see Dani. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Bali’s Sanglah Hospital.

An affair of the heart had caused Dani to drink poison. She’d felt betrayed and abandoned by a cheating husband. His visits had ceased and he refused even to bring in their two young sons after confessing to being with another woman who he planned to marry. It had only been a few months since Dani was arrested for stealing forty-two million rupiah ($5600) from a bank where she worked. But her case was still being heard in court and she had no idea when she’d be free.

She had started to spiral into a deep depression. Her life outside had vaporised. She’d lost her husband, and was facing years behind bars, and day and night there was nothing to do but dwell on her problems. Hurt, fury and frustration tore her apart. When Dani’s husband turned up the day after her death to collect her personal items, he asked Nita what she’d drunk and what time it happened. Nita told him and asked if he planned to re-marry. He admitted he did.

The loss of Dani created a sombre mood in Block W. They were all shocked, but also knew it could easily have been any one of them – collapsing into a lonely, dark hole was something they all understood. In jail, hurt and loss were amplified. Snatched from life, friends, family and other support networks, the women were very fragile, their emotions more volatile than ever. Living among so many could be terrifyingly lonely. Suicide attempts were common.

Drug runner Schapelle Corby is on suicide watch in hospital. The 30-year-old lost 12 kilograms in four weeks and suffered hallucinations and paranoia following the failure of her final appeal, doctors and her mother revealed yesterday. Corby had to be taken from Bali’s Kerobokan Jail on Friday to the international wing of Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar suffering depression
.


Sun Herald
, 22 June 2008

‘The patient Corby has suffered a total mental disturbance,’ Dr Leli Setyawati said. ‘Corby must be treated for one or two weeks. If there is no development, then the treatment can be extended further. But if it reaches a critical level, we must consider moving her to a mental institution.’


Sunday Herald Sun, 22
June 2008

Australian inmate Schapelle had been fighting off depression since she’d entered Hotel K five years earlier. She’d desperately tried to stay positive, forcing herself to wear makeup, dress neatly and continually replace negative thoughts with positive ones. But it was exhausting and lonely. The long, dark stretch of twenty years in jail was terrifying. She’d been caught at Ngurah Rai Airport with over four kilograms of marijuana in her boogie board bag. She swore she did not put it in there. She swore she was innocent. But she lost her final appeal. In quick succession, she also lost her beloved father and stepfather to cancer. She didn’t get to say goodbye. It broke her heart. The loss of hope threatened her fragile grip on sanity.

After spending two weeks at Sanglah Hospital, she was returned to Hotel K on heavy medication. But with only fifty cents a year spent on each prisoner’s healthcare, she got little medical help once back inside. Her family did what they could from the outside, but they could not ensure she took the medication. Other inmates, such as Australian Renae Lawrence, dispensed her pills, but they all had problems of their own and were unreliable. Schapelle quickly slipped back into the same poorly state she’d been in before she went to Sanglah. She grew disorientated and deeply paranoid, hearing voices and seeing things. Regularly at night she’d imagine someone spying on her through a hole in the ceiling, and would try to climb up to look. Subtitles on TV or writing on a magazine cover, she believed, were secret and cryptic messages sent especially for her to decode. She would spend hours manically trying to work them out. She swung from this hyper manic state to being almost catatonic, barely able to speak or look after herself.

On her worst days, the jail boss let her sister, Mercedes, go into Block W to wash and feed her sibling. She’d spoon food into Schapelle’s mouth like she was a baby, even physically moving her jaw until Schapelle remembered she was meant to be eating and started to chew.

On the brink again, Schapelle soon returned to Sanglah Hospital for her second stint within a year. She spent those days like a child, clutching a doll and resting her head on her mum’s lap. She was improving. But after twelve days, authorities unexpectedly arrived late at night to take her back. Schapelle and her mother, Ros, were asleep. Schapelle woke up and became hysterical. She flew into the toilet and locked it. Crying and desperate not to go back to her pitiful concrete cell, she slashed her wrists and arms with a compact mirror. Ros was distraught. There was nothing she could do to help her baby girl. When TV cameras started pushing into the room to film, Ros lashed out screaming, aware she was being filmed, but unable to control her frustration and anger over her total lack of power to care for her daughter. A short time later, Schapelle walked out to a car, wearing her pyjamas and clutching a pillow.

Without proper monitoring, Schapelle slipped back to her psychotic state almost as soon as she returned to jail. It was a vicious cycle. She couldn’t get better in Hotel K. She was back to hearing voices and was found trying to climb the water tower. She spent her days dosed up on psychiatrist prescribed anti-psychotic pills, often walking around in a daze, confused about where she was, thinking she could walk out and go home. But freedom was still a long way off. Her first five years inside Hotel K had already changed her indescribably. The vibrant girl she once was had vanished and she was losing her will to live. She twice sliced up her arms in suicide attempts or cries for help. She didn’t care who had to clean up the blood. Her desperate family live in fear she will die in Hotel K. They will keep fighting to get her clemency, and to get her out of Hotel K before they lose her altogether.

Life in Hotel K was very hard. It was not unusual for women inmates to become mentally unstable from the sheer hell of living in Block W; the ceaseless noise, the fighting, the lack of sleep and filthy conditions.

Ketut Suparmini, 20, really felt the pain of living behind Kerobokan Prison bars. Not because she was badly treated by the guards but because she was fed up with her cellmates. ‘I’m fed up. There are good people and bad people in there. When I had a meal, my rice was snatched by another woman convict,’ she revealed yesterday
.

Ketut who has spent the past two months in prison for stealing gold jewellery now has to lie in a Sanglah hospital bed. Last week she took
16 paracetamol tablets at once before she became weak and vomited. The married woman was rushed to hospital and arrived at Sanglah at 6.27 pm
.

She was caught stealing a gold necklace belonging to her husband’s friend and was reported to the police. She was then arrested, and after an interrogation, Suparmini was put in the cell. She said that her husband had never visited since. Plus, she had to face other prisoners’ behaviour which often gave her headaches and stressed her. She was placed in a cell with 7 other women inside. Four of them were inside in connection with drugs cases, two were involved in a murder case and another was [inside] for killing a baby. ‘I couldn’t cope and it made me stressed,’ said the young, rather beautiful woman
.


Denpost
, 11 November 2003

When female inmates checked into Hotel K, they walked down the concrete paths, through the gardens and past the palm trees, the temple and the tower, to a large steel door twenty-five metres across from the tennis court. Behind it was their new world: Block W. It comprised ten small concrete cells, usually home to approximately one hundred women, despite being designed for only thirty-nine. Four of the cells were for inmates whose cases were still being heard in court. These had fluorescent lights that stayed on all night, and high ceilings to prevent suicides. They were always stinking hot, particularly as the ventilation was poor, with no windows at the back of the cells and so no air moving through. The other six cells each had a switch to turn off the lights, and a small window at the back. This created a bit of a breeze, but had a downside, as the open sewers directly at the back of the cells created a sickening stench, especially when they stewed in the hot afternoon sun.

For westerners, the lack of hygiene was always a nasty shock. The hole-in-the-ground toilets regularly blocked and overflowed, spilling sewage onto the floor. Some locals would just squelch around in the faeces with bare feet. Several were peasants from tiny villages, serving a few months for crimes as trivial as stealing one sachet of coffee or one apple. They’d lived primitive lives and knew nothing about cleanliness or hygiene, often horrifying their cellmates with a gross lack of decorum: urinating and defecating on the bathroom floor; bleeding menstrual blood directly onto the cell floor, refusing to use pads or wear underpants. Some almost never washed their clothes or bodies, causing disturbing body odour in the cells.

BOOK: Hotel Kerobokan
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