Prison troublemakers face 'supermax' unit

national June 30, 2014 00:00

By Thanapat Kitjakosol
The Natio

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Trouble-making inmates from across Thailand are being transferred to the country's only jail with a "super-maximum" security facility.

The Corrections Department also plans to set up three more “supermax” zones like the one at Khao Bin Prison in Ratchaburi in a bid to accommodate all misbehaving inmates and ensure that they lose their bad connections and, thus, their negative influence. 

The reasons inmates get sent to the prison include drug trafficking, using cell phones or seriously intimidating fellow inmates. 
“I think if we have ‘supermax’ facilities to accommodate about 1,000 trouble-making inmates, we should be able to end many problems,” Khao Bin Prison chief Yossapon Sutham said in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
The supermax zone at Khao Bin Prison can hold 500 inmates.
Recent news reports revealed that some prisoners continue to arrange drug deals from behind bars after obtaining cell phones through bribery and influence. 
“To get a cell phone, some inmates have agreed to pay up to Bt3 million. To get a SIM card, some inmates have agreed to offer Bt800,000,” Yossapon said. 
He disclosed that some inmates outside Khao Bin Prison’s supermax zone once used cell phones. 
“But I have already launched a serious crackdown and pursued action against suspicious officials,” he said. 
Yossapon remains sure that no one has snuck a cell-phone into the supermax zone. 
“Before any person is allowed to walk into the zone, he or she must undergo body scanning. There’s no exemption. This rule applies to officials and the warden chief too,” he said. 
He added that SIM card-detecting devices and security cameras were also in place.
“Officials monitor inmates round the clock with the help of 360 security cameras too,” he said.
When the ‘supermax’ facility opened last year, only troublemakers from the Khao Bin Prison were sent there. However, authorities now agree that it will be easier to control and reform inmates if trouble-makers are separated. 
Kan, 33, said he was initially locked up in the Ubon Ratchathani Prison on a drug-related conviction. 
He said he had managed to get into an influential gang there and got a cell-phone. 
“Because of that I was sent to solitary detention at the supermax zone,” he said. 
Unlike general prisons, the supermax does not allow inmates to walk around and they can’t use money. Neither can they accept food or items brought by families or friends. 
There is no coffee and smoking is banned. Only direct relatives can “visit” via a video-conference system that officials can listen to. 
Inmates are allowed only one hour of exercise a week. 
“We have already had 287 inmates inside the supermax zone,” Yossapon said.  Uan, who was jailed for attempted murder, said officials threw him in the supermax because he had often had brawls at Chon Buri Prison. 
“I am under huge stress because I can’t contact anyone. I am allowed to leave my cell only when my lawyer arrives,” he said. 
Kan said the situation at the supermax facility was so stressful that he would never want to come back. 
“I even think I could die from stress here,” he said. 
‘Supermax’ unit head Chanwit Karanan said inmates often shouted to ease their stress and some even banged their heads against the wall. 
Parakorn Daengsomboon, who monitors inmates via CCTV, said he could zoom in closely on inmates. 
“So if anything goes wrong, officials can rush in,” he said. 

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