Lawyers’ notes from the prison visit to “Nutchanon”: Life in prison is even more inconvenient if you are person with disabilities

On 3 September 2021, TLHR lawyer visited “Nutchanon Pairoj,” a student leader of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration at the Rangsit Temporary Prison once again via video conference. He has been detained since 9 August due to the #2AugRally case. The court upheld the order not to release him even though his lawyers have requested for bail at least three times. 

Amidst the situation where inmates contracted Covid-19 almost thousand people daily, Nutchanon is a defendant in the case of #2AugRally and the only one who has not tested positive for Covid-19. All his other friends charged in the same case who were not granted bail all contracted Covid-19, and were all transferred to the Department of Corrections Hospital.

Although he is fortunate to (still) be Covid-19 free, the young man had the same suffering as his fellow inmates because prison is never suitable for anyone’s life, especially for people with disabilities like him.

Nutchanon lost his right leg from an accident when he was  in high school. Ever since, he has had to use a prosthetic leg to allow him to continue daily life as normal as possible. But his incarceration in the prison even made “normal” living more difficult.

“Living in prison is already difficult even for normal people. But it is even more difficult for people with disabilities. Firstly, using the restroom is very tough for me because the toilet in here is the squat type. With or without the prosthetic leg, it is always causing problems for me.”

“Everytime I use the toilet here, it is always a risk for accidents. It has already happened to me once. I slipped and my left foot got wounded.”

The squat toilet required power from both legs to balance the body. Due to that fact, Nutchanon often has problems with using the toilet. It would be better if the toilet in the prison has a seated toilet and other equipment to facilitate people with disabilities like him. 

“Secondly, when taking a shower, I must take off my prosthetic leg. But when I take it off, there is a risk of an accident as well because the restroom here doesn’t have equipment to support the people with disabilities. The floor is very slippery and there is no handrail.”

“To sum it up, the restroom and I are incompatible.”

“But if you ask if I can stay, of course I have to live with it” (laugh)

“Another thing about being handicapped, the most important equipment like my heart is my prosthetic leg. However, it can easily get damaged under the humid condition of the prison. The steel handles rust even more easily because the restroom is closeby.”

Nutchanon was separated from the other inmates to be in solitary confinement. Inside the narrow, square room, there are not many airways and during the day there is only a little light passing through. Other than that, the squat toilet is already inside the room, making the humidity and stuffiness a daily bother that every inmate encounters.

“In daily life, it is necessary for me to take off my prosthetic leg sometime to decrease the chance of getting wounded, swollen and for sanitary care. 

“In here, I don’t have my crutches to help me walk. When I don’t use my prosthetic leg, I have to do a one-legged tiptoe to slowly allow myself to walk forward like playing ‘hopping on one leg’ and it is not fun. It really affected my leg and joint conditions.”

When the lawyer asked whether he is concerned with contracting Covid-19 in the prison, he answered with a happy mood, “I am betting with Arnon right now who between us would get the Covid-19 first,” and laughed very loudly.

Nutchanon was separated into solitary confinement without any reason given by the corrections officers. Still, he is still at risk of contracting Covid-19 everytime he has to shower and eat with other inmates. Many people around him were concerned that if he was to contract Covid-19, his symptoms may be more severe than others because Nutchanon is quite overweight. 

Before saying goodbye, his lawyer was telling him the situation of protests that has been happening in the past few weeks, including the situation at Din Daeng intersection where arrests and physical violence occur daily.

Lastly, he sent the message to his friends that he missed and cared for everyone.