Depression, culture shock and the stigma of her experience are just a few of the hurdles Schapelle Corby will face after stepping out of Kerobokan into a “potentially traumatising” media frenzy, experts say.
While Indonesian authorities noted that Schapelle Corby remained a prisoner for another three years, people with experience in helping ex-prisoners adjust to life on the outside said she may suffer mental health effects including depression and trauma.
Debbie Kilroy, CEO of women’s prisoner support group Sisters Inside, said leaving Kerobokan Prison in Bali as one of media’s most wanted was likely to have a “major psychological impact” on the former inmate, though she is reportedly set to earn up to $3 million for an exclusive interview with the Seven Network..
The convicted drug smuggler spent her first night on parole at the five-star Sentosa Seminyak spa villas at Petitenget, not far from Kerobokan prison.
“She’s going to walk out and be bombarded [by media] and that’s going to have a major psychological impact on her and could highly traumatise her, because of the expectation that (she) will respond,” Ms Kilroy said.
“She has gone through nine years of trauma. She needs some time instead of this scramble of who is going to get the first photo. What is this? Sport on the back of a woman’s trauma? There needs to be some respect in relation to the reporting of this,” Ms Kilroy said.
In Schapelle’s case, she’ll have a media onslaught to contend with, fueled no doubt by a variety of agendas.
Brisbane based psychologist Christine Bagley-Jones said released prisoners usually felt euphoric, but this was quickly followed by depression-like symptoms.
“Not long after release, she’s probably at risk of experiencing adjustment disorder. It’s where there’s a sudden significant change and they haven’t had the opportunity to psychologically adjust and even though they have fantasised about their release and even though she will have tremendous support from family, there is still cultural shock to the privilege of having complete freedom.
“There is also the fact that their fantasy of life on the outside may not live up to reality.”
Ms Bagley-Jones said there was likely to be a grieving period as Corby looked back to see how the experience really affected her.
“She won’t ever be completely free, because there’s still the residual experience. Also she’s no longer the woman she was when she went in; she’s at almost celebrity status, and nothing, not her career, her relationships will come without that notoriety.”
Life on parole
Under the conditions of her parole, Ms Corby must not commit crime and must report to authorities until March 24, 2017, with the possibility of a further year of “guidance” to follow.
In her parole guidelines she cannot use or distribute drugs. She must report once a month to the Bali corrections board for guidance and counselling, and dress neatly and appropriately.
Corby also does not need to make any admissions of guilt, though in 2012 that law changed, and prisoners caught from that time on must show remorse for their crimes.
She must have a home base, which will be her sister Mercedes and brother-in-law’s house.
However there is speculation she will move to attempt to avoid the media attention.
The Bali corrections board can make snap inspections of the compound nominated as her home.
The parole terms allow Corby to leave Bali to go to another island of Indonesia if given permission from the Justice Ministry and she may leave Indonesia for a short period with a specific reason.
If Corby breaks any of the terms of her parole, she will be sent back to prison to serve the rest of her sentence.
Readjusting to daily life
As well as living with her sister’s family, Corby will reportedly begin designing bikinis to be sold in the surf shop Kuta Boardroom owned by her brother-in-law Wayan Widyartha.
Even with the support of family, Sister’s Inside’s Ms Kilroy agreed that one of the most difficult things was readjustment, even with programs. The experts agreed that the ongoing support of her family would be a huge benefit – insulating her from the stress of readjustment.
But Ms Kilroy said it would be difficult in light of the parole conditions.
“When you’ve gone through the horrendous experience of imprisonment, whether it’s in Brisbane or Townsville or Bali, all you want to do at the end of that trauma is come home where you know and you feel safe and she still can’t do that for a number of years.”
Even the day-to-day details will be a struggle to readjust.
The trauma of life after prison
Human right’s advocate Kay Danes also experienced the trauma of being incarcerated in a foreign prison when she and her husband were unlawfully detained without charge in Laos. She was eventually released after high-level intervention by the Australian Government.
Ms Danes case led to a career in human rights advocacy. Although her case is markedly different to Corby’s, she says it is similar to others promoted on her Foreign Prison Support website.
“Prisoners need privacy in order to adjust to the sudden change in routines. It can also be quite confronting to be out of those routines.
“You’d be surprised just how quickly you can ‘get used to’ lock up and release within the system. It’s important to set new routines that will help alleviate stressful situations.”
Experienced with a high media profile, she warns Corby not to be caught up in other people’s agendas.
“In Schapelle’s case, she’ll have a media onslaught to contend with, fuelled no doubt by a variety of agendas, least of which will be about furthering important conversations on social justice, prisoner transfer agreements, or the fate of two other lower profile Australians on death row who have contributed overwhelmingly to vocational programs in the same prison.”
Twenty years ago in Kerobokan
More than 20 years before Corby’s case, Chris Parnell was sentenced to 20 years prison in Bali for drug trafficking after marijuana was found in his friend’s hotel room. From 1985 he served 11 years before he was exonerated after Prime Minister John Howard intervened.
His story offers few parallels to what Corby experienced, though both served long sentences for crimes they denied committing.
Unlike Corby, Parnell was sentenced in the days before greater global scrutiny. No one campaigned for his release even though he was tortured, starved and went on hunger strikes in an effort to improve conditions in Kerobokan and other prisons.
Compared with his experience, which he has detailed in his book The Sunday Smuggler, Corby’s prison experience was a luxury.
“My experience was nothing like Schapelle’s. She was never starved, she was never bashed or beaten, she never got solitary confinement, she never had guards come and beat her or calling her the white dog.
“I forgot I was a white man in some of the places and prisons I went to. You never see your face. You forget who you are. She never had to go through that, she had visits from her family all the time. In the whole 11 years I was in prison I got three visits from my family. She got three visits a day. They can’t say she had a hard time. I know what sort of time she had.”
Parnell said the protests and efforts of prisoners in Bali during his time have helped improve conditions for Corby.