Reaching Across Borders, Behind Bars
By Simon Gladman and Laode Arham
A scene from Tim Bui in which an inmate snarls at another prisoner and refuses to share a cigarette struck more than a chord with the viewers of a special screening of the drama series in June 2012.
Laughter broke out among a group of 26 prisoners at Tangerang Prison in Jakarta during the scene. It was an insignificant scene in the story’s plot, but it was one which resonated strongly with them.
The attention of the prisoners of Tangerang –most of who were convicted on drug dealing charges– was fixated on the projector screen at the front of the small room during the viewing of the TV drama.
“We are living among differences. Therefore how can we unite and work as a team? Find the common thing,” said Sujanto, a prisoner who shared his thoughts in a group discussion after watching Tim Bui.
Another prisoner Saiful said: “The closeness between Agung (the main character) and prisoners brought changes into the prison. So if we want change, we’d better improve our relations.”
Tim Bui (Prison Team), the Indonesian version of Search for Common Ground’s global The Team project, is a story based on how conflict is overcome between ethnic gangs in a prison through the formation of a football team. Produced in partnership with SET Film, the series aired throughout Indonesia on national station Metro TV from February to May this year.
The special screening for prisoners at Tangerang Prison was the first time SFCG had taken Tim Bui into a prison as part of the series’ outreach program. These outreach efforts include visits to four other prisons in June and July. Outreach was also conducted in 10 pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).
“The situation in prison is really different now. Unlike during colonial times (under the Dutch), especially in prisons for drug cases such as Tangerang, there are many development programs for prisoners,” Solehudin, an officer, said.
Many former prisoners also engaged with the Tim Bui Facebook page during the course of the series. One wrote: “Tim Bui tells a story about the complexity of life’s problems frequently faced in the real world, whether within or outside jail. [The messages I took out of Tim Bui are ones of] humanity, gender equality, the beauty of peace, tolerance, team work, and caring for one another.”
Tim Bui pushed many boundaries – including traditional hierarchical barriers – by introducing a woman as the head of the prison. The show told of how conflict between gangs within a prison could be overcome by working together – through the formation of a football team.
In keeping with the storyline of 13-episode series, SFCG’s outreach activities had prisoners form football teams after having watched Tim Bui and been taught basic conflict resolution skills.
For more information on SFCG’s work in Indonesian prisons, watch this short video.
Simon Gladman and Laode Arham are staff members at Search for Common Ground in Indonesia.