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Montag, Januar 11, 2010

Foreign prisoners in Taiwan. Locked up forever?

There are articles in German in my blog, which are dealing with the prisoners in Taiwan:
Im Blog sind deutsche Artikel über die deutschen Gefangenen in Taiwan, siehe hier: Artikel 3, Artikel 2, Artikel 1.

Imagine you hadn't eaten good food for several years, all you got was some over-cooked meal which has hardly taste and for years and years no candy, no cookies, hardly soap or shampoo and sometimes no slippers on your feet and not a blanket to cover yourself. And as additional torture you have to watch other people getting good food from home and chocolate and cookies. Sounds like hell, doesn't it?

Taipei Prison in Taoyuan. The real prison is hidden from view behind smaller administration buildings and palm trees. There are no palm trees or parks for the inmates.

Well, in Taiwan jail is NOT meant to be like this. The system is relying on the families of inmates to provide some clothing (however they get the basic clothing in jail) including slippers and blankets and the family can in the beginning of the prison term visit once a month and later every week to bring some food. Cookies and chocolate and needed toiletry can be bought in the prison shop.
But Taiwan has foreign prisoners as well. Currently there are three German prisoners in "Taipei Prison" in Taoyuan county close to Taiwan's capital Taipei, a fourth one is most likely currently imprisoned on remand and there are also prisoners from England. The problem of the foreign inmates is simple: Their families are far, far away and often cannot afford the flight ticket. Even if they come for a visit during the first years or so of imprisonment, the inmate can only see them for about 30 minutes once a month. Now do the maths. Relatives go on a plane to Far East Asia and all they can do is to see their imprisoned relative for 30 minutes. No-one will stay for over a month. Such a visit is deeply disturbing for both inmate and visitor, as I was told from relatives of one inmate. You can do nothing and when you have just finished the emotional hello, the cruel bell cuts off all conversation. "See you again next summer vacation." Of course you don't see the inmate directly but rather through a glass wall. This must be hellish I suppose.

Consequently there are no visits from the folks back home, no food which will be brought. Relatives of one German inmate had seen my blog and contacted me and asked wife and me to pay their relative a visit. As all German prisoners in Taiwan (at least as far as the press reported) he was imprisoned for life for bringing Heroin to Taiwan. Now don't get me wrong. Bringing drugs to Taiwan is a severe crime and it makes me angry to think people might actually do such a thing. The island of Taiwan does not have many hard drugs on the market, nothing of such quality is produced here and airport checks are said to be tough. Consequently the market price is high, which leads criminals to ask foreigners like Germans being in (financial) trouble in Thailand for "help" to bring the drugs to Taiwan. I have to admit I don't want the stuff here on my little island, so I am not trying to make the crime any smaller than it actually is.

However, the foreign inmates in Taiwan get punished indirectly much more severely than the locals - because they do not get the family visits and do not get the foodstuff from home. Being in an alien country adds to the punishment. Yes, they chose to come here on their own with the white powder, but nevertheless it is a humanitarian gesture not to forget them.
Unfortunately they are forgotten for the most part, as Taiwan is not recognized as a state of its own by most countries on the globe and thus there is no possibility of transfer to their home countries. If you get life, Taiwan wants you to serve at least 20 years and then you may get deported home.

The inmate wife and I have visited had never received a private visit (only lawyer and all three months the German representation) in Taiwan and he was here for many years. He was in jail in fact so long he did not know what the word "blog" meant when I told him I wanted to write about the visit in my blog. He is living in the over-crowded jail with 20 people on 16 square meters. He spends the weekends entirely in his cell together with the others and can only commute between cell and workplace during the week. There are no sport courts, no walks in the yard***. The jail is overcrowded and we here in Taiwan are paying only 6% tax, so there is not too much in for them. Imagine so many people in a small cell with a toilet (a hole in a basin on the floor).

He was extremely happy to see us and said our visit was the nicest present he could get for Christmas (we were there shortly before Christmas time). All his hope is to come home one day. But this day of return seems to be far, far away.

And no, you don't find the foreign inmates in Taiwan prisons listed on the usual websites. Remember, Taiwan is not regarded as a country and thus forgotten.

*** The big park in front of the jail is not for inmates. Only the former president of Taiwan, also incarnated there, is allowed to use the park.

10 Kommentare:

StefanMuc hat gesagt…

Would it be legal to organize a service which inmates relatives could use? Something like where they could order food for their relative in prison and the service would deliver it? Would something like a pizza delivery service be allowed to bring food to the prison?

Also: is it 30 min per month per prisoner? I.e. are visitors allowed to go for several visits to different prisoners in the same month? If so, then maybe the families of foreign prisoners could coordinate - one visitor would first visit his own relative, then meet with the other prisoners one-by-one, reading them letters, telling them news or just chatting. For Germans the Deutsches Institut ought to help with that, once there is some forum or something they should point relatives of prisoners to that. A subforum on forumosa, maybe?

Beyond that, it seems the Taiwanese government should make provisions for foreign prisoners. Allow them to bundle their visits for example, so that they can have one months in which the prisoner can have five visits in one month. That would make a trip to Taiwan more feasible for the relatives. Again the Deutsches Institut should see it as their job to petition for that...

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

I will think about your comments and answer in more detail, a bit busy right now. Let me respond later, I was just browsing through currently.
Talk later...

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

Hi Stefan:

Pizza delivery service to jail: Besides the question who pays (OK could be the relatives) that would not be allowed. Currently families bring self-cooked food into the jail, like noodle and veggies, packed in transparent plastic bags.

You can only visit one prisoner, jail management stresses you need to have a personal or family relationship to the prisoner. Being "representatives of the family" worked for us. No idea what happens if we want to visit 2 or 3; at least it can't be on the same day.
Yes, families could do it like this: one relative comes and visits inmate 1 on Monday, inmate 2 on Tuesday, IF the jail would allow it. However, http://gefangene.blog.de/ would be the place to talk about that; that is the blog of relatives. They are currently looking for people in Taiwan who want to visit.

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

See my update on the matter (posting of Jan. 18th) where I took over the request from the inmate support blog for people who are willing to visit.

Anonym hat gesagt…

A friend of mine was in Taichung's foreigner prison and she was allowed visitors four times a week, with each visit lasting about 20 minutes. Anyone who knew her prisoner number was allowed to visit. (You have to sign in to see the prisoner.)

There were taxi drivers and other individuals who provided the service Stefan mentioned, bringing items to the prison for family members who couldn't make it during the visiting hours.

BTW: No prepared meals were allowed to be given to the prisoner, but anything packaged could. Her boyfriend would bring bags of chips and cookies and instant noodles. (And shoes, soap, clothes, etc.)

Anonym hat gesagt…

well they deserve it and act as examples for other people not to do anything against the law..

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

As someone took an interest in this again: Until Wednesday, Dec04, books in all languages can be dropped off at the OnTab bar in Taipei (http://www.ontaptaipei.com/directions/) which then will be donated to the prison inmates. Of course English and also German books will be of use. I try to make it there on Wednesday evening.

Anonym hat gesagt…

Mein Freund Erik Jacobs wurde am 10.4.2014 mit Heroin erwischt kann mir jemand sagen wie ich ihm helfen kann oder ihm irgendwie schreiben kann?

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

Mein Freund [...] wurde am 10.4.2014 mit Heroin erwischt kann mir jemand sagen wie ich ihm helfen kann oder ihm irgendwie schreiben kann?"

Ich habe wegen meiner "Keine-Namen"-Politik im Blog den obigen Kommentar von einem anon. Kommentator gekürzt, ich bitte um Verständnis. Ich werde dazu später noch etwas Posten als neuen Kommentar.

"Ludigel" hat gesagt…

Die Links zu den deutschen "Drogenhäftlings"-Artikeln funktionieren jetzt wieder, so dass man dort schon mal Info entnehmen kann. Mehr später, bin gerade in Terminnot.