The purpose of prison is to be “the worst place on earth,” there is nothing wrong about it. But controversial Red Shirt leader Datuk Sri Jamal Md Yunos has a different idea about prison as he announced his intention to reform Malaysia’s prisons by, first, allowing inmates to smoke. Eh, ini prison atau holiday villa?
After paying RM20,000 bail and defended by senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the same lawyer who represented former Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak in 1MDB-related case, Jamal was released from prison on July 31.
As a freeman now, Jamal didn’t shy away from the public. In an interview with reporters outside his house on Wednesday (Aug 1), he talked about various of things in regards to his 27 days experience in prison. We have summarized his account into these 8 points:
1. Prisoners should be allowed to smoke
In a world devoid of civilization (quite literally), contraband cigarettes are deemed as something beyond life in prisons. According to Jamal, prisoners by hook or by crook would smuggle cigarettes in even if it means swallowing them in a bag of plastic, Malaysiakini reported.
The Sungai Besar UMNO division chief said they would think of creative ways, albeit dangerous, to bring in nicotine goods into the prisons. Some would even go to the extent to swallow cigarette lighters.
“Sometimes it can be fatal when the plastic bag ruptures,” he added.
Jamal suggested that the inmates should be allowed to smoke when they receive visits or once a day, the purpose behind it is to avoid hazardous smuggling effort.
“The objective is to reduce (contrabands). Perhaps I’ll be criticised by the public for saying this, but they don’t understand. I’ve been there.”
The prison guards conduct intensive checks for contrabands and those caught would be subjected to severe punishments.
Jamal’s account on this rings true with a report written by an anonymous ex-inmate submitted to Cilisos. The writer revealed that smuggling handphones in was something more severely scrutinized as it allowed prisoners to contact the outside world. Like Jamal said, they would ingest the item or stuffing it in from below and let it out through bowel execration.
However, the article revealed something more sinister when smuggling cigarettes. Instead of nicotine or tobacco, the writer said they would also smuggle in weed, heroin, or methamphetamine – high profile drugs. Not sure if we should listen to Jamal’s suggestion.
2. Remove the stench smell that causes mental anguish
Speaking from his experience, Jamal urged the government to improve the prison condition especially the stench smell which he complained that it would cause mental anguish when living in the confined space.
Although he was incarcerated in “Tawakal” block which was considered the “best” block in the Sungai Buloh prison, he said he was as if had walked into a grave. He described it as the worst place on earth.
According to the Cilisos article, the ex-inmate also stressed the formidable stench and explained that the smell came from poor plumbing system. Due to many clogged toilets, rats and roaches made themselves at home in the prison. The hygine condition was so bad that it made the prisoners feared for their lives because diseases from rat urine, leptospirosis, could kill them.
3. Improve the condition for the sake of prison guards
Jamal said it in a way that the effort to improve the condition of Sungai Buloh was meant for prison guards. He related that stench had even caused the guards to suffer mental anguish.
“They are very stressed. They are like inmates. They are locked in with the inmates,” he said, adding that there were only a few guards handling about 5,000 inmates.
He urged the government to treat these guards the same as any public servants by providing them with the same facilities and perks as well as increasing their wages.
4. Prisoners know about him
Jamal was surprised that many inmates knew about him, including those who had been imprisoned for many years.
“The Sosma detainees were not happy with me. This is the orang BN who created Sosma,” he related.
Sosma refers to Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 which allowed for detention without trial. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had pledged to abolish the draconian law since regaining the federal power and his decision was also in support of Jamal’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee.