The prison where Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were shot dead is better known as “execution island”, “death island” and “Indonesia’s Alcatraz”.
The sprawling jail complex on Nusakambangan island, located off the Cilacap coast in central Java, houses more than 1,500 inmates, including those found guilty of drug trafficking and terrorism.
But it is most notorious for its execution sites, the Nirbaya and Li-musbuntu shooting fields, where inmates are put to death.
Seventy-two hours before being executed, condemned inmates are taken to an isolation cell where they wait until being led — chained and, if desired, blindfolded — outside the jail to nearby jungle clearings.
There, they are tied to a post and shot by a 12-man firing squad.
Inmates are reportedly given the choice of whether to stand, sit or kneel as they are shot.
In November 2008, Bali bombers Imam Samudra, 38, Amrozi, 47, and Mukhlas, 48, were executed by firing squad on the island.
It served as a penal colony when Indonesia’s Dutch rulers began detaining prisoners there more than a century ago.
Today those colonial jails, long decommissioned, can still be seen by visitors to the island.
The modern prisons make up a sprawling complex across the island’s interior, seven facilities ranging from maximum security to an “open” prison where inmates work in fields and carve gemstones for jewellery.
The Jakarta Post reported that the facility’s seven jailhouses include: Besi, Batu, Kembang Kuning, Narkotik, Pasir Putih, Permisan and Terbuka prisons.
Each complex is heavily guarded and divided into separate blocks with high walls and fences.
The jailhouses are spread about four kilometres apart across Nusakambangan island, which measures 30 kilometres long and averages seven kilometres wide.
Hopes for budding tourism industry alongside island’s prisons
The penitentiary is managed by the justice and human rights ministry, which grants tight requirements for visitors, taking more than a month to process.
Despite its grim reputation as “Indonesia’s Alcatraz”, many inside the country see it as a proud symbol in the fight against drugs.
“Nusakambangan is not just a point of pride for the people of Cilacap, but all Indonesians,” gemstone trader Edy said.
“Indonesians think executions are a good way to fight drugs.”
The island itself is home to about 3,000 locals and its beaches and natural caves can be visited by tourists.
Boat operators at Cilacap’s main beach say they take up to 100 — mainly Indonesian — visitors each Sunday across the narrow strait to explore the island.
Akhmad Edi Susanto, deputy chief of the local district, envisions a day when the island, with its beaches “more beautiful than Bali”, can attract the levels of tourism enjoyed by Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, and wants a cable car affording visitors a bird’s-eye view.
“I’m very proud because there’s no place like it,” he told AFP.
“The prison can remain a prison, the executions can continue, but the nature must be enjoyed by everyone.”