Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life\u2019s sentiments.\u00a0 What are the living conditions inside a Malaysian prison really like? A few months ago, an FB user (who has opted to remain anonymous for this article) shared his experience as an Ask Me Anything: The prison warden has opted to remain anonymous for this piece. IRL reached out to the person who made this AMA for his permission to publish his answers in our article. This article is the interviewee's personal point of view, and may not be taken as 100% based on PDRM Prison Department standing orders, and regulations. Reader discretion is advised. Part 1: Life In Prison What types of prisons are there? There are three main categories: Maximum security, medium security, and minimum security. There are also prisons that are specific to certain crimes and types of inmates, like remand prison (\u201clokap\u201d) which only keep unconvicted prisoners in custody, like Sungai Buloh prison. Pudu jail. Image via Google images. Are prisons really as dramatic as TV shows portray?\u00a0 Nope, that's too dramatic. Malaysian prisons are more like a corrective center, almost like a school. We have a system, and you are expected to have high discipline at all times. Do prisoners sleep on a bed, a mat, or on the cold floor ? They have a katil but it\u2019s very thin in size, around 2 inches thick, which is standard for security prisons. The tilam itself is made of latex. Image via Penjara Pengkalan Chepa FB How does a prison smell?\u00a0\u00a0 New prisons are pretty clean compared to old prisons, which are smelly. You probably don't know what human oil smells like \u2014 it smells so strong that you won\u2019t feel like eating for an entire day. But we get used to it. What is prison food like? We have a staff canteen inside and then there is a hall that cooks the inmates\u2019 food. Both are nice and endorsed by KKM. We got chicken, vegetables and kuah (curry). To be honest it's like our school canteen rations. Not really nice, but still healthy to eat. Image via Penjara Kanjang Selangor FB. During Raya, we will cook them a special meal like nasi tomato or hujan panas and during Chinese New Year, we\u2019ll give them oranges. They can ask their family to buy them lemang or ketupat at the staff canteen to eat too. And on their birthday, each prisoner gets a complete meal which is endorsed by KKM containing chicken, beef, fish, veggies and fruits. They can also have cake or biscuits. Part 2: The Prisoners Who are the people who end up in prison?\u00a0 Those who are in prison are mostly drug abusers. There are many rehabilitation programs for them, which are as good as the ones the AADK (Agensi Anti-Dadah Kebangsaan) agency do. The ones who are in for petty crimes and hardcore crimes are small in number. Drug apparatus on display. Image via Penjara Kajang Selangor FB How compliant is the average prisoner?\u00a0\u00a0 They\u2019re pretty obedient most of the time. It depends on the prison and their category. If they\u2019re convicted inmates, they\u2019re mostly obedient and stay out of trouble. If they are detainees that weren't convicted, they\u2019re a bit hard to control because they\u2019re not given a discount for good behavior. But overall, they behave because they depend on us to do anything \u2014 eat, sleep, shower and so on. How are gay men and transwomen treated in Malaysian prison?\u00a0\u00a0 Known gay or transgender individuals will be isolated in one place. They're treated well. How are pregnant women treated in prison? A doctor in prison will monitor her pregnancy during her trimester. Once she is about to deliver we wardens will escort her to the hospital. The doctor will give her postnatal care. They\u2019re allowed to breastfeed their baby until they reach the age of 2 years. In the newer prisons, there\u2019s a space for breastfeeding mothers. In old prisons, there's no such breastfeeding room, but the baby will be taken care of by their peers in the cell, which is quite a heartwarming scene to see. When the baby is a toddler, the welfare officer in prison will contact her family to pass the kid to her family member to be taken care of. Part 3: Dropping The Soap Screenshot from OITNB (2014) What happens when a prisoner \u201cdrops the soap\u201d? Sexual relationships between inmates is a crime. Once they find out, you will be charged in court for sodomy, and you\u2019ll get between 5-20 years extra jail time. There was a case where they did it in a dormitory that tightly fit 90 people. They were all charged with an extra 10 years added to their sentences. Is the rumor where new inmates will get bullied and raped really true? Nope, not true. That's a false rumor. They'll be slapped with a rape charge for doing that. No sex is allowed in prison, even straight sex. The warden will monitor the inmates every 30 minutes. So they will get into the scene if there is any bullying, sexual activity, or if anything bad happens. Image via Penjara Pengkalan Chepa FB Do molesters and pedophiles get bullied or beaten up in prison?\u00a0\u00a0 Normally, molesters and pedos seldom get bullied, because we wardens will try to avoid it at all costs. We keep them isolated until their story in the news cools down, like in high profile cases where the father raped his own daughter. What is your advice to someone to avoid getting bullied by other prisoners? Stay calm and listen to the prison warden. As long as you're good with them, then you are well protected, since they will remember you. But don't stand out too much to avoid jealousy among your peers. Part 4: Gangs, Contraband, Prison Escapes Do gang fights occur often?\u00a0 Yeah, although rarely. Most fights involve people with mental health issues, whereas gang members normally don\u2019t do that, because it would alert the warden. There are always gangs that are involved in smuggling activities. There are even gangs specially originating from prison. Some of these prison gangs are identified by their clown mask tattoo on their body. Image via Unsplash How is contraband smuggled into the prison? They wrap the contraband in condoms and place them in their anus, like drugs, tobacco, and handphones. Tobacco is regarded as a currency inside prison. Once, a male prisoner had 3 condoms packed full with tobacco inside his anus. Has anyone tried to escape? Yes, people that are unable to accept their fate will try to run away. But mostly get caught again and slapped with extra charges. Once, there were 3 runaways and the town got locked down, but most of the public were unaware of their escape. They were caught quickly by the pegawai penjara (chief prison warden) in less than a day. The pegawai penjara got a watch and pingat (medal) for successfully apprehending them. Image via Penjara Pengkalan Chepa FB Part 5: Prison Deaths Why do people keep dying in prison?\u00a0 It\u2019s more to do with the condition of the prison. Most people die in prison because of pneumonia. But I think you want me to answer the question about men getting beaten to death, right? Some are due to human error, some are just rumors and gossip. Some people just can\u2019t stand the bad behavior of another human. That I think is the most common answer. It is of course illegal to kill an inmate. In most cases, a warden would get the death sentence for unlawfully killing an inmate. What is the process of executing a prisoner on Death Row?\u00a0\u00a0 The prisoner is allowed one last meeting with their family, and there's a last meal, where they can order menu items like fried chicken and cornetto ice cream from our prison canteen meals. Only specially trained people can execute the death sentence. The method is basically using a lever to make the neck snap. The same method has been used since the olden days with no changes, since death row is no longer accepted in modern countries. Image via Penjara Wanita Kajang FB How are prisoners on lifetime sentences treated? Lifetime prisoners would mostly stay up to 40 years in prison, and at the end of their lives, get an official pardon from our king. They can get rehabilitated and do work like the others, so they are easier to manage. Part 6: Rehabilitation What kinds of rehabilitation programs do you do?\u00a0 In rehab, prisoners will undergo spiritual teachings and various lessons which are made for their offense. Image via Warna-Warna Baju Penjara by ML Studios It\u2019s like army training for new prisoners, and once they\u2019ve \u201cgraduated\u201d inside the prison, they work there during the next few years. Who is eligible to join these programs?\u00a0 Everyone must undergo rehabilitation. If not, they'll be charged for not following orders while under custody. The only inmates who are not eligible are Death row inmates. The reason given is, they're not allowed to conduct activities that might lead to premature death. You can't even let them eat any meals with chicken bones inside. How is it like to work in prison? The rehabilitation programs aim to give skilled jobs to this inmate once freed. They can learn any skill, and there are pathways to becoming a gardener, clock maker, or a seamstress under licensed release\/parole. Image via Penjara Wanita Kajang We even allow inmates to pursue degrees, Masters and PHD programs in universities like University Malaya, under the condition that the institution allows teaching through the internet. However, due to overcrowding, we are unable to supply every inmate with hand skills. Do the prisoners get paid for working in prison? Yes, they get an allowance which they can claim when they are released from prison. Some are already part of a profession like barbers when they enter prison, so they cut hair for the warden and other inmates. I used to get my haircut done at a prison by an inmate every month. Image by Komuniti Penjara Tapah via Pentadbir Penjara They earn money based on the colour of their uniforms. It's a suit that differentiates them based on which stage of rehabilitation they're currently at. Each colour has their own salary grade. From the earnings, they can transfer the money to their family. So after they have been released, they can start a new life with your earnings inside prison. What are the kinds of items that prisoners make? They make appliances and furniture. One order can be as large as 300 units of a table for example. Caption: This carved wooden clock was made by a prisoner. Once bought, they will "berpuluh" for one item. Berpuluh means RM10-99.\u00a0 Sometimes, the prison will organise a festival where they sell the items made by banduan. The prison will get 100% profit from those items, and the banduan will get maybe 5% of the total profits. It depends. You can look for inmate-made stuff at the prison nearest to you. Just call that prison to ask for the range of products they make, they're pretty friendly. Image via Penjara Wanita Kajang What\u2019s the re-offense rate for prisoners who rejoin society? The recidivism rate for Malaysian prisoners is below 10%. That's our KPI actually. Rehabilitation is effective, but the program has now stalled due to overcrowding. Why are Malaysian prisons overcrowded? It\u2019s down to our ageing infrastructure \u2014 many prisons are old, with more than half being over 50 years already. Imagine that. Some prisons have no cells but dormitories, which are supposed to fill only 30 people. Now we have around 90 people in them. Image via Penjara Wanita Kajang Currently, new prisons are being constructed just for replacement of old jails, so the overcrowding is just in rehab at the moment. We have done everything we can to stop overcrowding, but unless the ministry approves our request to build a new prison, we can't do anything else. In the end the money is with the ministry to decide. Parole and license pre-release are the only way out right now. These programs somehow only help about 10-20% of overcrowding. What is the process for their release?\u00a0 We can check their release date through the system database. Their records will be checked by our superior to make sure that they get no more new cases in court. On the day of the release, the director of the prison will interview them. Once the list is out, their belongings will be returned to them. Then they will be reunited with their family and can start over their lives. Is it difficult to find work after being in prison? Anyone can work as long as that won't induce their previous crime. Are there any success stories from the inmates? You can get success stories in Sistem Online Jabatan Penjara Malaysia. A lot of good stories were published there. For more stories like this, read I Was Busted with Drugs in Indonesia: Here\u2019s My Story And I Was Abducted and Held at a Drug Rehab Facility. Here\u2019s My Story If you like what you read, follow us on Facebook & Instagram.