03 March 2008

Prisoner Transfers - Australia & Indonesia

The most prominent Australians likely to benefit from any prisoner transfer / exchange deal hammered out between the Australian and Indonesian governments will be Schapelle Corby and the members of the Bali Nine that were not sentenced to death (Martin Stephens, Michael Czugaj, and Renae Lawrence).

For the Indonesian side, I do not recall any 'big name' prisoners sitting in Australian jails. They are probably big names in their local villages and to their respective families. But of late most Indonesians violating Australian laws tend to be Indonesian fisherman operating in Australian territorial waters.

Illegal immigrants are not technically jailed but rather detained until all their legal avenues are exhausted then they are usually deported. It is worth noting that some, perhaps many, would consider conditions in an Australian detention facility like being in jail.

The question though is a simple one: If you are an Australian doing time in an Indonesian prison is it in your best interests to seek repatriation to Australia to serve the remainder of your sentence in an Australian jail?

If 20 years imprisonment in theory means 20 years imprisonment in practice. Then a convict like Schapelle Corby will be compelled to complete a full 20-year term in an Australian jail. Indonesian sentences do not generally contain a minimum period or a non-parole period. Simply, when the judge says 20 he means 20! So, even after 15 years Corby could not apply for parole nor could she rely on any kind of remission for good behaviour or otherwise.

On the plus side, conditions might be slightly better in practice and probably a whole lot cleaner! And she would also be closer to her family and the financial burden on them to visit will be greatly reduced.

In contrast, if Corby were to continue to serve her sentence in Indonesia where the system allows for remissions to be handed out, and sometimes handed out twice a year, she could conceivably serve a whole lot less time.

Tommy Soeharto is a classic example of how the remissions system can work in the favour of a convict. It also highlights the distorted and misguided nature of Indonesian law. But anyway, Tommy gets 15 years for the assassination murder of a Supreme Court judge (Corby gets 20 years for drug possession and smuggling - distorted) but serves only about half the time courtesy of remissions and other health related factors. So, if Corby plays her cards right she could conceivably do a whole lot less time in an Indonesian prison that she might if the 20 means 20 in Australia!

Unless, of course the convicts, although serving their prison time in Australia, can still be granted remissions by the Indonesia government and have them applied to the sentences being served in Australia. Then the decision to access the prisoner transfer program would be a 'no brainer'.

Now, things do not always go to plan and Corby missed out on the last round of remissions for supposedly being in possession of a mobile phone. This in itself hardly seems to be an additional crime worthy of that kind of punishment. Yet, in the light of that remission cancellation some jails now have installed public phones, which can be more easily monitored. But there are no hard and fast rules in that sense with regard to remissions that what you might lose on the swing you will probably make up on the merry-go-round!

Yet, for Corby and her Bali Nine friends that may benefit from this agreement it is still a wait and see game as not all the appeals processes have been exhausted. Generally, the agreement would only kick in after there were no further avenues of address and the sentence was in effect 'final and binding'...

Nevertheless, there are some interesting choices to be made by Australians in Indonesian prisons going forward.

1 comment:

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