PUTRAJAYA: There will be no home-cooked rendang, lemang, ketupat and lodeh for prison inmates come Hari Raya as food items can no longer be brought during visits to prevent dangerous and prohibited items from being smuggled into the cells.
Due to attempts by some to smuggle in drugs, cigarettes, tobacco, money, liquor and even handphones for prisoners by “hiding” them in food items, the prison authorities have banned families from bringing outside food to inmates for the past five years.
Prisons Department head of secretariat unit Sufri Hashim said the decision had upset some families and even inmates as they could no longer enjoy the occasional home-cooked meals; but the ruling was necessary to ensure prohibited items did not enter the prisons.
Sufri said there were occasions when prison guards found substances hidden in cakes, secret compartments in containers, soup thermos and milk-powder boxes or tins.
“Malaysia’s prison is not the only correctional facility that imposes such a ruling. Most prisons around the world do not allow visitors to bring outside food for the prisoners.
“However, items such as clothes, books and other basic needs can be passed to the inmates but it will still be subject to inspection to curb attempts at smuggling in prohibited items,” he told a media briefing yesterday.
He said if non-governmental organisations were sponsoring meals for inmates, the prison authorities would check the source of the food to ensure “they are safe and healthy”.
Sufri also said that relatives need not have to go through the trouble of smuggling money to prisoners as they were actually allowed to leave money for the inmates but it would be under the care of prison officials and an official receipt would be issued.
He also said it was important for family members to visit inmates as often as possible as it was a form of moral support for them to turn over a new leaf and to encourage them to behave.
Visitations were allowed once a week. - The Star
As I read this, it brought back memories of the early 90s when I was lucky to visit one of the Kajang Prison inmate.
Yes, I was.
When visitation rights are strictly meant for family members and relatives only. But ex-neighbour?
The inmate, whom I shall refer to as Kak Maimun, showed me and taught me a lot about married life and staying married.
An observing servant to her Creator, a very obedient wife, a responsible mother and a mindful neighbour.
I still made a point to occasionally visit her after I moved house.
During one of those visits, I received the news that she was being remanded by Johor Bahru narcotic police and will be charged in KL court for possessing of unlawful drug (I've forgotten what the drug was).
When I asked her children, they blamed their mother's youngest brother, a drug addict, for the mother's involvement in drug transactions.
So she had been selling drug for quite sometime? I can just tell myself, impossible for her to do so.
She was proud to tell me she was saving up for her coming pilgrimage to Mecca. She had even showed me her Tabung Haji savings of RM9,000 - more than enough then, for the trip there.
I was proud of her far sightedness and initiative.
Although illiterate, she maximise the skills she had - massaging and taking care of mothers before and after delivery, and sewing - and sewing she did, day and night, after doing her morning rounds of giving body massage to mothers in confinement and cleaning the newborns.
Sitting around with her youngest sister, another story emerged.
Kak Maimun had been helping her husband, an ex-policeman turned security officer, with his illegal trade. Always an obedient wife, she had never said no to him.
When narcotic police, based on public tip-off, raided their house, the first thing she did was to salvage the drug which was kept in a Tupperware - She was caught red-handed with the drug in hands.
Both husband and wife were remanded at the local police station.
The husband was released after two weeks in detention. Kak Maimun's mother went berserk upon his release.
Kak Maimun was transferred to Women's Prison in Kajang, Kuala Lumpur.
Of course an ex-policeman knows how to worm his way out with consistent denial of possessing the drug, claimed Kak Maimun's mother.
During one of the Hari Raya, with her sisters from JB, I followed them to pay her a visit.
Her daughter who was staying in KL prepared her mother's favourite dish - 'soto' - the night before, and we set off early when the sun was about to rise.
My heart sank when the food was checked, the soup was drained, leaving just the plain, tasteless rice cake for her.
Even the 'begedel' was taken away too.
Conversation with her was again, full of advice for me to properly take care of my family.
How she passed her time in prison when a life sentence had been passed to her? Again, maximising the skill she had, she was tasked to take care imprisoned pregnant ladies and to assist in looking after newborns.
I figured upon her release, how was she going to face her neighbours as they were surprised to know that I can see eye to eye with her and visited her in prison.
I see the goodness she imparted in me is way much more than what was printed in the local paper.
Didn't I read the paper? An elderly neighbour asked. Maybe I missed out.
She blamed Kak Maimun for her son's dabbling in drug.
From then on, almost all Kak Maimun's help and services to mothers and newborns went unappreciated.
Few months after the life sentence was passed to her, Kak Maimun's husband remarried and went back to his hometown in Batu Pahat to stay in his mother's house which was left vacant for more than 10 years after the old lady passed away.
Kak Maimun passed away in prison in the early 2000s, without ever knowing that her husband had remarried, although, on his behalf, she claimed the drug was hers.
To safeguard himself, the husband had never once visited the wife in prison.
His five children with Kak Maimun, who are all now married, could not be bothered to visit him in Batu Pahat as he showed no remorse and empathy towards his late wife who sacrificed her freedom for her unquestioned obedience towards her husband.
To him, his life must go on on...