SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Bali, Indonesia. Over four million tourists flock here every year chasing sun, surf and tropical perfection. The Hindu island captured Indonesia’s holiday market decades ago, and continues to grow. But it’s not a paradise for everyone. Almost as well-known as Bali’s beaches is Kerobokan gaol, four hectares behind razor wire in the centre of this tourist mecca.

[outside gaol] “For the first time ever a television crew has been granted unfettered access inside. Over the next week, we’ll embed ourselves here and bring you a day in the life behind these walls”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “My name is Matthew Norman and I’m a prisoner here in Kerobokan Prison in Bali and I have a life sentence”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Arrested in a Bali hotel room in 2005, at 18 he was the youngest member of the infamous drug trafficking group, the Bali 9. He’s spent his entire adult life behind these walls. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah I normally wake up at about… around 6 am and straight away I go downstairs and flick the kettle on, make a big cup of coffee. 
So as soon as headcount’s done, I’m out the door”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: For the next 10 hours, the male prisoners are now free to roam the prison grounds. Announcements from the loudspeakers are constant. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “We’re not locked up in a cell 24 hours a day. I just keep my days as busy as possible”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Norman starts most of his weekdays working inside the prisoner run art studio. Here, he manages a screen printing operation. These studios were set up by Australian Bali 9 members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan who were executed by firing squad in 2015. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “That was very tough. After so many years had passed and all the good that they had done in here, I just thought that they might have had their sentence commuted to a life sentence. I’ve picked up a lot more responsibility now that they’re not here. So we’ve started our own brand called “Redemption” because I do believe prisoners can change. That’s what it’s all about. It’s bettering yourself so that you can go back outside”. 

WAYAN MUDASTRA [“PAK MUS”]: “I started working here in 1985. I was around 24 years old at that time. At first I didn’t really understand what prison was”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Wayan Mudastra, or Pak Mus, is the prison’s longest serving guard.

WAYAN MUDASTRA: “When I arrive, we go around the prison and greet the boys. If we accept and welcome them they’ll also welcome us, and everyone will be friendly”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: At any given time Pak Mus is one of just eight unarmed prison guards on duty. Four patrol the grounds and four are posted in the watch towers. That’s about a 160 male prisoners per guard. 

WAYAN MUDASTRA: “On one hand we’re like parents, but on the other we act as guards too. I still do my duty. This is the room that the prisoners sleep in – this is their bedroom. In general, conditions are okay but the issue here is what we call overcapacity”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Built to incarcerate just over 320 male prisoners, roughly 1300 men live here at the time of our filming. Since it was first built in 1979, the prison infrastructure has continually changed. Prisoners are responsible for the upkeep of the cells, as well as the manicured grounds. 

MALE PRISONER SINGING: “If only I knew your love ain’t true, I would have let you go with a hug”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: David Fox is a former war correspondent and journalist with Reuters. He was sentenced to 7 months gaol for possessing just over 9 grams of hashish.

DAVID FOX: “Now this is my personal space here. You try and do what you can with it, you know you make it as homely as you can. That’s a nice picture of my beautiful nieces… a calendar ticking off the days to when I go… and I’m very proud of that, that’s my negative drug tests from the day I’ve been in here… reading materials…. and that sort of thing. You know, you can see as my head touches the wall here, and my feet touch the wall on that side, it’s ah…… be it ever so humble there’s no place like home, I guess”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Often referred to as the “United Nations of Prisoners”, there are just over 100 foreigners from 26 countries inside Kerobokan. A spot in the foreigners’ block is a privilege that comes for most at a cost – a hundred dollars up front and twenty five dollars a week. Having money here, buys you space.

DAVID FOX: “Here you’ve got, you know Zimbabweans and Russians and Ugandans and Iranians, Australians, Kiwis… all, you know, every nationality. And so there is a little bit more cultural tension I’d say that people, you know… everybody knows the constraints that they’re living under so they have to… they have to get along”.

MALE PRISONER: [standing in front of signage] “The rules here, yeah? No bringing guns to gaol. No camera, no phone, no drugs. It’s no good. If you have problem you can fix problem, don’t make the problem again. Okay, thank you”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Indonesians pack the remaining cells, each named after iconic Bali locations. 78% of prisoners have been convicted on drug charges. 

HERU SAPUTRA: “My name is Heru Saputra, I am 40 years old. I’m in for a drug case, serving an 18 month sentence”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Heru is the leader of cell block Alas Kedaton. 

HERU SAPUTRA: “We’re all guilty here, no one’s any good. It’s not nice here. But we prisoners try to make the best of a bad situation. The capacity of this area is 40 to 50 people. But at the moment there are about 87 people. Overload. We’re all so close, we’re like brothers”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Most sentences in Kerobokan range from 20 years to a few months. A handful are here for life. 

SI YI CHEN: “My name is Si Yi Chen. I’m an Australian in Kerobokan gaol and I’m serving life sentence for already 12 years because of drug trafficking”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Si Yi Chen was arrested in the same hotel room as Matthew Norman in 2005. 

“Do you feel every moment of those 12 years? Does it feel like 12 years to you?”

SI YI CHEN: “Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. When you are stressed out it feels like forever, but when you are more positive, it feels fast. Yeah every day goes by really fast. Every day I just come here and then I train the fellow inmates here for them to learn like silver handicrafts. It helps me a lot to deal with my time in here because we are doing something instead of wasting time and wasting life”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: After 12 years Norman and Chen are the last of the so-called Bali 9 to be behind bars at Kerobokan. They share a cell with one other inmate inside the central prison tower, once known as Super Max. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “So coming in here we have our sleeping quarters for Si and myself. So Si is here, this is where he sleeps and he’s got his lamp and his alarm clock. He’s got to wake up early. [alarm set at 6 am] Got our bathroom here, so we’ve got no hot water so it’s mostly bucket showers or we put up this contraption here to have a bit of a shower but the pressure’s never strong for a good shower and we’ve got a typical Indonesian squatting toilet so it gives the legs a good workout”. [laughs]

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: [looking at stairs going up] “This was built, right… a prisoner before you?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah, a prisoner built this before I was here”. [climbing up]

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “Oh, it’s not the easiest climb up”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “No, it’s not”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “You get used to it, yeah?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “You definitely get used to it”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: [head nearly touching the ceiling] “Yeah, and this is… it’s okay for me, but not for you I think”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Ah no it’s a bit… it’s a bit small for me, so I’ve got to keep pretty crouched”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “So this is your… this is your personal private space?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yes, this is my little piece of paradise. Sometimes you just have a bad day, you just want to stay to yourself so yeah, this is my little area and where I find peace”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “So you’ve just got the one picture in here, of your…”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah just me and my dad. That photo was probably about 2007 or 2008”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Two years ago Matthew’s father, Michael, moved to Bali. He comes twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. Today he’s brought a bag of instant coffee. 


MICHAEL NORMAN: “How’s the football doing?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “The Melbourne one? 

MICHAEL NORMAN: “Your team lost.” 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “No, they won by… I think 12 points, I think. No they’ll win the comp I think. You okay?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Every day, every time I see my dad in a visit or catch up with family when they’re here I just, I feel regret. Every time I see them, I just… I feel… feel so guilty for them. Yeah I committed the crime but they kind of have to deal with the consequences as well and that’s not fair, not fair on them”.

MICHAEL NORMAN: [prison visit] “I think Indos make coffee wrong”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “No you’ve just got to use the plunger, you’ve got to use the plunger”.

MICHAEL NORMAN: “You know, they make it with about half a teaspoon. It comes out all wrong”. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “What are you doing today?”

MICHAEL NORMAN: “I’ve got to go home and clean the place up”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “What did you say to your dad?”

MATHEW NORMAN: “Just said that I’m sorry. Just that. I’m sorry I put them in that position… yeah it’s tough. [upset] Yeah, I need some water… yeah”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “Do you think he’d accept it? Your apology?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I think so, yeah”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Once a month the prison provides another freedom, by opening its doors to families. 

MALE PRISONER: “Every month there’s one day for everyone’s kids come… for lots of families… father or mother here, yeah. But I really, really happy today”. [holding children]

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Balinese man, Wyan Budiatra was gaoled a year ago for possessing 0.3 grams of methamphetamine. Only enough for personal use, he was sentenced to four years and three month’s gaol. 

WYAN BUDIATRA: “What makes it hard to accept is that I really love my kids. When I’m at home we’re always together but now we’ve been separated for so long [both him and child he’s nursing are upset] I feel sad”.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I miss family time the most. I never… I made… I never made the most of it back home. The family would go out, I’d stay at home. When I was a bit older I didn’t want to join up with the family. I’d want to go out with mates and party and things like that. So I really… I neglected my family a lot so I miss them the most”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “What was your family life like when you left?” 

SI YI CHEN: “A really typical, traditional Chinese style. It was like dad is the boss and my mum is the chef [laughs] and then I’m the only child so they are really strict, but sometimes when they are too strict you rebel against them and maybe they tell you to go left, you just want to go right just to make them angry”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “So what were you asked to do?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Pretty much just bring a package back from Indonesia to Australia. They didn’t really go into detail as to what it was exactly, but a package and I presumed it was drugs but at the time I didn’t even think about the consequences whatsoever”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “And how much were you promised?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Fifteen thousand dollars which is a lot to an eighteen year old, but when you look back at it now, it’s absolutely peanuts, it’s nothing”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “So what were you going to do with that fifteen thousand dollars?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Probably buy a car, yeah and just waste it probably… knowing me back then…. waste it”.

SI YI CHEN: “I was actually tried to save it up for go to the aviation college because I was at a grudge with my dad and the first thing he said to me when he, he found out I wanted to do the aviation college, he said are you crazy? Where do we get that kind of money? I had a meltdown on him at that time. You never let me do what I want, what I love. Fine I’ll do it myself, I’ll find it myself. 
I just love… love the sky. Love the feeling when you’re flying. You feel free when you’re flying in the sky and you see far away… you see everything”. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I’m embarrassed by the name of the Bali 9 because I’m embarrassed of what we done. It sucks. It’s a name that the media came up with and now no one knows me as me, I’m not Matthew Norman, I’m just Matthew Bali 9. That’s not my name”. 

SI YI CHEN: “With this we’re tied in a bond. He’s like my younger brother. We were just kids when we were arrested. We didn’t think about the consequences”.

PRISONER: Okay. Now’s the time to ask Matt. You can have the same questions… like you did to me. Please ask him.

MALE PRISONER #1: [English class in prison] “You no miss your hometown?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah of course”.

MALE PRISONER #2: “When did they catch you?”

MALE PRISONER #3: “When will you be free?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I’m not sure. I don’t know yet”.

MALE PRISONER #4: “Which do you like more to stay? Australia or Indonesia?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I don’t really know Indonesia. I only know the prison”.

[class laughter]

MALE PRISONER #5: “Are you hungry?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Am I hungry? I’m always hungry!”

[class laughter]

MALE PRISONER #5: “Yeah that’s me, I’m always hungry. We go now…. to eat together?”

SI YI CHEN: “The reason why the inmates are in here, is because they do not… they don’t have a skill. Matt was the first one who did the English class so it was a great success. A lot of people actually learn English”. 

MALE PRISONER #6: “What your…”.


MALE PRISONER #6: “What are your activities in the gaol?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I have many because I like to be busy so we have activity in the church, we have news class, we have computer class, we have t-shirt printing, tennis, boxing and gym”.

[ class applause]

MALE PRISONER #7: “Matthew! Vote for Matthew. Vote for Matthew!”

DAVID FOX: “Mattie Norman in particular you know, I’ve found him quite inspirational and in… you know keeping yourself occupied… And time passes quickly when you do that, it really does. I don’t think there’s any romanticism or paradise lost or anything like that at all. It is what you make it, what you make of it. If you come in here with the right attitude, you’ll go out of here probably bettered - but if you come in here with a negative mindset I think there’s a lot of dark holes you can fall into as well”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The darkest hole for many inside is drugs. We’re told that crystal meth or “Shabu” is the drug of choice to escape reality behind bars. Yet for most, spirituality helps them through their lengthy sentences – all major faiths are followed inside Kerobokan.

HERU SAPUTRA: “Though we’re from different groups and religions, we’re all united. That’s what’s unique. Different cultures… but we remain united”. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I think it’s definitely it’s a cliché in prison inmates finding God and things like that, but I think in here when you’ve got absolutely nothing, you open yourself up to, to everything - and by going to church and reading the Bible I’ve found peace in that and I still do. I feel that I’ve become a better person because of going to church and being positive. It’s definitely… it’s helped me a lot”.

NI PUTRIYANTIYANI: “My name is Ni Putriyantiyani. I’m known as Putu Yanti. I’ve been here for almost three years. I have two children”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Found with methamphetamine, Yanti is one of 145 female prisoners incarcerated in Kerobokan.

NI PUTRIYANTIYANI: “I’m so sad… very sad to be here. In prison my rights are limited. I know that’s because I am guilty. But of course I miss my parents and my children. I’m sad. [crying]

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: In April the women’s wing was segregated and previous interaction with the men cut back. This was home to Schapelle Corby for nearly a decade and is where Sara Connor is serving out her five year sentence. Our crew is not granted access to film inside the female cells.

NI PUTRIYANTIYANI: “My life in prison is overload – there are 15 people to a cell. We sleep squashed together. We have to arrange ourselves. We have to queue to wash. Sometimes things get heated. There’s always friction”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: To keep active, once a week Yanti helps lead an aerobic session for the female and male inmates. It’s a rare moment for the women to not only leave their compound, but to interact with the men.

NI PUTRIYANTIYANI: “As a normal person, of course not only me, but my cell mates, would like to meet the opposite sex. In here it’s like being back at high school. If we meet and say hello, we’re happy. [laughs] Virgin… virgin again”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: One of the unique aspects of this prison is the huge amount of open space that the male prisoners at least get to roam through throughout the day - and with that comes a huge expanse of sky, giving them a sense of relative freedom.

WAYAN MUDASTRA: “As a human being, why shouldn’t you be allowed to look at the sky? Or the sun? If we can see the sky we can broaden our perspective and make our brain better”.

SI YI CHEN: “In here, the guards and the prisoners communicate. They want to make the gaol look like a big school camp or a big campsite for people who did some mistake”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The prisoners here know if they push the flexible boundaries too far, the relative freedoms they have could be lost. Solitary confinement, nicknamed “the rat cell” is one such punishment. But the largest deterrent is transfer, often done in the early morning to one of Indonesian’s other island prisons.

MATTHEW NORMAN: “I don’t know it could be the Bali…. Balinese culture. Somehow it works. You don’t have prisoners scaling the walls - nothing’s out of control”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: As the afternoon descends, the male prisoners emerge to exercise and unwind, knowing they’ll be behind bars again soon. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah I do a lot of sport. I probably don’t get as much rest as I need to, but if I don’t do sport every day, in the nights I struggle to sleep. That’s when your mind starts doing backflips”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “If I was to say to you, life is life… that’s it. That’s it you’re here forever, how does that feel to you?”

MATTHEW NORMAN: “Yeah it’s scary. It puts a shiver down your spine. But if life is life, I’m not going to…. I’m not going to give up. Laws around the world are forever changing. We don’t know what tomorrow brings”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Tony Nainggolan has been the gaol’s Governor since late 2016. In May he sought sentence reductions for Norman and Chen from the Indonesian President. He knows that they could die in prison.

“Do you have sympathy for Matthew Norman?”

TONY NAINGGOLAN: “Yes I do… a great deal. He’s one of the prisoners whom I consider to be a success. A success story. As a human being, I think those two especially should have their sentences changed. The same for Matthew as for Chen”. 

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: It’s 5.30 pm - shut down time. The freedom to move around has come to an end. 

SI YI CHEN: “Yes, people change. If people have looked at us since the beginning until now, they will see the great change. Before a naïve, stubborn, high ego teenager, well 20, and then we change into somebody who’s more responsible, who have already rehabilitated and reformed and also helping other people to reform”.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: “Do you want to say anything else?”

SI YI CHEN: “Get me home”. 

MATTHEW NORMAN: “When those doors get shut and locked, you can see a gap, you can see this bit of metal that goes across which is the… the hinge of the lock and you just think to yourself... what have I done?”

© 2019 Journeyman Pictures
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