Our Own Plea

As recorded in our special report this edition, outside medical care was provided to inmates at the severely cramped Kerobokan Prison in Kuta district this week. We applaud the efforts of Melly St. Ange and her fellow members at the Bali International Women’s Association (BIWA) in providing sorely needed dental treatment to prisoners because it is not widely available there.

Many prisoners received treatment during the clinic on Monday, including well-known foreign inmates at the facility, and said they were grateful to BIWA.

Amid talk of moving the prison to a more suitable location – one that’s not in the middle of a busy tourist area – so that the overcrowding issue can be dealt with, it continues to struggle to meet the needs of its close to 700 convicts (it was designed to hold little over 300), including even the basic of electric power. Prison authorities said last year that they owe a backlog in unpaid electricity bills and feared being cut off.

Therefore it is right that social-welfare organisations such as BIWA pick up some of the slack and help out. No one wants to see people suffering in squalor – no matter how bad their crime – or going without medical assistance.

But some take advantage of situations in which it is possible to ferment a scenario that may, behind the headlines, not be what it is. We are not advocating special treatment of any prisoner; hard time must be served for all those who are convicted in the courts.

And meanwhile, a vocal portion of the Australian pubic remains all too ready to ridicule the laws and those who enforce them in this country, in the apparent belief that being an Australian gives people some kind of immunity from incarceration in places where prison conditions are not what they might be at home. This is a far from universal belief among Australians, many of whom are irritated by special pleading.

It is past time that wiser heads should prevail.

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