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Baan Kwaan Prison
a story about my experience visiting a prison in Thailand. I heard the guys there like having visitors when I was hanging out in Bangkok, so I went to visit.
John C Rivers
I like to eat snacks in the trailer with the AC on cold and I keep a pitcher or kool aid near within reach of the couch.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (1)
House Trailer (Essays) a trailer is a good place to live. [270 words]
Baan Kwaan Prison
John C Rivers
Baan Kwaang Prison
Forty five minutes down river from Bangkok lies Baan
Kwaang Prison housing 6,000 inmates. I took the boat
down there on visiting day to visit a man by the name
of Lenny who was serving a life prison term. I thought
it would interesting to go inside and get a feel for
the place and also thought that he might enjoy a bag
of chocolate bars and a cylinder of Pringles potato
chips that I got a hold of at a Seven Eleven near my
hotel. I thought he also might enjoy some different
The place is easy enough to find, it is the last stop
the ferry makes on the river before turning back
towards downtown Bangkok. Getting off the boat and not
speaking Thai so well I wandered about until a lady
stopped and guided me to what she correctly understood
me to pronounce as Baan Kwaang several blocks away.
She did it to be nice and it meant something to me
have a special guide. I had decided I would come here
and sit down and visit and only talk or listen to what
Lenny felt like saying or hearing this day.
The guards were lax. I was asked to show my
identification but I wasn't frisked or queried except
to ask if I had a camera or cell phone, which I did
not. They went through the bag of chocolate from the
Seven Eleven and shook up the cylinder of Pringles
that I hoped would not crack up into fragments. I
thought getting the Pringles inside would be a good
experiment in case there was a need to devise an
escape plan like in the movie, Alcatraz. The potato
chips in a can baffled them and I am curious to find
out from Lenny if he was able to get to them as they
were originally package, in a vacuum .
The visiting area was pleasant enough. It was square
with a grass court yard in the center. The corridor
around the square was clean and concrete and shaded.
There were two canteens to buy cigarettes, coffee, or
soap for your prisoner if you were so inclined. On one
side were the Thai prisoners and on the other were the
foreigners. They were isolated from one another. It
was well swept and decorated with handsome wooden
benches along the outside corridor and green grass
grew in the sun. It was a nice place for visiting and
the weather was cool, there was no sweating, nor bug
problems. I felt like I was in a school yard for big
guys and they had recess for just a short time.
Once inside you simply walked up to a guard with the
note book and gave him a slip of paper with your
prisoner's name and building number and took a seat on
one of those many benches along with the group of
other visitors. The benches were lined up along the
outside of a double barred breeze way that was about
ten feet wide. It was here that I waited for Lenny to
get dressed in his visiting clothes and come on down.
While waiting my mind drifted and it occurred to me
that a fishing string could be used as a tool to
create a pulley of sorts to transport commodities
back and forth. We were unobserved as visitors I
The Thai side had a peculiar rhythm of language and
the foreign side also had a unique beat of the drum so
to speak, dominated mostly by African's speaking
African or English, with some white guys sitting along
the breeze way. Everyone was trying to make themselves
heard. It is not so quite here, you need to shout a
little to get your messages back and forth. It was an
interesting place to listen and I think I enjoyed
myself just knowing that I was in the open air.
In fifteen minutes Lenny came down, glasses, unshaven,
and smiling. I introduced myself and we carried on. He
went on, talking, telling me about his life in Ban
Kwaang and I asked very few things and spoke little. I
will summarize this briefly for you as best I
1.) The prisoners sleep 23 to a cell, they sleep
sideways because there is not enough room to lay on
their backs. If you get up in the night to go to the
bathroom, then you will need to nuzzle back down into
a hole you must dig out for yourself.
2.) There are a revolving group of hill tribe
prisoners that the guards move from one cell to
another. The have skin infections and lice and are
disease ridden. When the guards bring this group to
your cell then the prisoners must take turns sleeping.
The hill tribe people will stay in that cell until the
inmates raise up enough money to pay the guards to
move them to the next block. There is about a three
month rotation before they are reycycled.
3.) Prisoners are locked down from 4:00 p.m. until
4.) You must provide for your own food in prison, the
prison does not provide food for the foreign inmates.
The Thai's will not eat the food the prison does
provide. Some embassies will loan prisoners 100
dollars every 3 months that must be paid back upon
release. This is about enough to live on but will not
buy antibiotics or soap. Some embassies now also
provide vitamins. Lenny says the vitamins make all the
difference in the world, he does not get sick as often
with the vitamins.
4.) Prisoners survive by being in groups, Lenny is
with a group of three. A British guy, a Malaysian guy,
and himself. In the morning they see what food they
have. Go get what they can or need by trading and
buying and working, as a group. At one p.m. they meet
and cook up what they have gathered.
5.) All prisoners are addicted to heroin on and off
again. I think they do this in prison for fun. The
Africans sell the heroin and this is what they do to
make money for drugs and for food as there embassies
do not make "loans" as do the others.
6.) Guards also bring heroin in and allow it because
it keeps the inmates quite.
7.) They shoot prisoners about once a week with
machine guns. That is how they carry out the death
penalty, shooting, four or five at a time.
8.) You can borrow money in prison at about 10% a week
if you get a really good rate. If your late you get
stabbed with an extra skinny ice pick to encourage you
9.) The groups keep there stuff (money,food,cooking
stuff) in a locker and they take turns or they hire
some one to guard it.
10.) You can have an ATM card and a guard will go get
you money for 40% of the money.
Lenny had tried to smuggle 32 grams of heroin back to
Australia. If you try to smuggle 20 grams or more you
get a life sentence. I got that guy a cartoon of
cigarettes and a bag of coffee after I had heard his
story. I don't reckon he should have tried to smuggle
any amount of heroin from Thailand and now he has to,
well spend the rest of his life in prison. I am not
saying if he deserves it or not. I just am glad it
isn't me and am happy to get the guy some coffee and
cigarretes. I hope he does Ok though because he seemed
nice and was funny too.
|READER'S REVIEWS (4)
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"Interesting piece John, I am curious to know how and why you picked Lenny for your visit, was it just a random arbitrary choice or did you actually know him or of him? Though informative on the conditions of the penal system in Thailand, it raises more question for your readers than it anwsers. Do you make a habit of visiting a country and examing first hand thier correctional systems by interviewing inmates you don't know? Nice journalistic style, but in my humble opionion, you could omit the Sincerly John at the end of your story. " -- Robert Montesino, Florida, USA.
"John, Go to Submit your Work, when you get to that page you will see Storymania Editor, you then will have to request a password from Storymania, which they will Email you. Then you can punch in Authors name and with the password you can bring up the piece you posted and edit it, including changing Title, Authors description and/or make changes to the work you posted. I hope this helps, I also was confused about this when I first tried posting, then changing things, so believe you are not alone in learning how to get around this site! I have worked in the Criminal Justice System for the past 16 years and I found your work interesting in that I have seen the inside of many prisons and jails over the years. I simply was curious about your motivation for writing the story and was intriqued by the descriptive narrative of a foreign prison. How a country treats and houses it's prisoners speaks volumes about the charactor of its people. Keep up the good work John! Give us some more insights as you get them in your travels. Thanks again for posting this piece." -- Monte, USA.
"Interesting the way Thai prison system carries out the death penalty; I write DR inmates in USA and other inmates, too, so always interested in someone's view of ps in ours or other countries. " -- Shelley, Fullerton, California, USA.
"As a retired NYC Correction Officer it was interesting to hear about a foreign prison.I worked for many years in probably the most famous (or should I say infamous)jail of all which was Rikers Island.Prisoners on Rikers Island should realize that there are worse places like the prison in your essay but all in all working in jail has made me appreciate something that most people take for granted-FREEDOM! Nice piece John,hope to read more." -- David Daniels.
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© 2000 John C Rivers
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