A prison in northeastern China has been at the center of a media storm as news organizations throughout China have been carrying stories about misdeeds at the institution.
The Shanghai-based news website The Paper got things started on Jan. 20 with a report about a prisoner’s sex scandal at Nehe Prison in Heilongjiang Province, which was then picked up by other media.
The prisoner, named Wang Dong, used the Chinese messaging application WeChat to get to know women on the internet, gain their trust, form love relationships with them, and then cheat them out of their money, according to the Paper.
An anonymous insider at the Prison revealed that at least seven females maintained stable love relationships with Wang, three of them gave them money, and two of them are married to other men.
One of Wang’s mistresses transferred 80,000 yuan (US$12,788) to Wang’s bank account, after Wang introduced her to an “investment project.” Prison guards then withdrew the money for Wang and brought it to him to use in prison, the report says.
One of Wang’s mistresses even had sexual relations with him during a visit to the prison, which was then discovered and stopped by prison guards.
Wang finally went too far when he blackmailed a policeman, the husband of a mistress named Li Li (a pseudonym).
Wang took a screenshot of Li Li naked when they once video chatted, and used the photo to extort her husband.
Unable to bear the harassment from Wang, Li Li’s husband reported the case to authorities last November, the report says.
A document obtained by The Paper shows that four supervisors and two guards at the prison were punished due to Wang’s case.
Video Games For Money
Nehe Prison purchased 250 computers in 2006 for prisoners to play online games, such as World of Warcraft, to gain income for the prison, according to Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.
“They were given requirement for how much game currency they had to earn every day,” an anonymous inside source told the Phoenix. After the prisoners upgraded their well-equipped game characters, they can trade them for money. “It became a form of prison income,” the insider said.
A prison guard, named Li Bin, once severely beat up a prisoner, injuring his eye, because the prisoner didn’t play the video game well. The prisoner then sued Li Bin, who was sentenced to two and one-half years in prison, the report says.
The method of earning money by organizing prisoners to play video game was then stopped in 2008.
Nehe Prison has a high rate of unnatural deaths for various reasons.
At least five prisoners at Nehe Prison committed suicide from 2008 to 2014, another three prisoners attempted suicide during the period, and one prison guard also committed suicide after being summoned by police, according to The Paper.
The high suicide rate is believed to be linked to the frequent beatings prison guards give inmates. An anonymous source told the Paper that in 1991 two prisoners were beaten to death because they had no money to bribe two prison guards.
Another inside source revealed that a prisoner, named Cao Mengqi, was drowned in a ditch, when he attempted to pick up a gun dropped by a prison guard. Cao was ordered to get the gun by two prison guards who left their work to shoot wild ducks while the prisoners were doing labor work in the fields.
Drinking, Gambling, and Cooking
By bribing the prison guards, prisoners not only can get cell phones but also alcohol. “Prison guards usually put alcohol in mineral water bottles, and then put the bottle in their sleeves or in their waistbands. They normally bring in alcohol during working hours when there are many people,” an anonymous prison guard told The Paper.
Another inside source confirmed the information, and indicated that alcohol that costs 20 yuan ($3.2) outside of the prison is sold to prisoners for 100 yuan ($16).
Gambling among prisoners is also allowed, and two prisoners even committed suicide due to heavy gambling debts, an anonymous prison guard said. “They gamble for a lot of money. Earning or losing tens of thousands is very common.”
Prison guards have also created a secret kitchen in a warehouse for prisoners who would like to pay 200 yuan ($32) per meal to make their own meal with better food, the report says. Prisoners can even order food from prison guards who would secretly bring in the meat and vegetables during the shift change, the report says.