ON THE inside, Phuket Provincial Jail is perhaps not as daunting as it seems from the outside.
Phuketwan went inside on a day-trip today, to see how Public Health cares for the prisoners.
Through the two sets of barred doors, a bit like going through a decompression chamber, lies a central courtyard. There are trees, and with one of Phuket City's green hilltops is in the background, it looks very neat.
Today female prisoners are queuing up for a health check inside a mobile clinic. They each carry a white slip of paper and, in groups of 20 or so, line up to go in one by one.
Inside, they are able to talk to medical authorities about any problems they have. The women are all dressed in brown prison uniforms and seem quite cheerful in the sunshine.
Many of them, though, are barefoot.
The men follow, again in small groups. They take off their shirts before joining the queue. Some of them are katoeys and cover their chests with their shirts. Others do not bother.
One or two of the prisoners are shackled, with protective bandages around their ankles.
Unlike the women, all the men have footwear, mostly flip-flops, although a few pairs are ornately decorated katoey footwear.
Dr Wiwat Sitamanod, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office, is here today to oversee the health process.
He says the whole prison population will be checked, over about 10 hours.
One of the concerns is to stop the spread of TB. If problems are detected in an examination of patients, they will be taken for x-ray and further treatment.
However, most of the health issues in the jail are minor, with skin infections and heat rash fairly common, he said.
A nurse works at the jail fulltime and the Vachira Hospital, together with Phuket's other hospitals, provides treatment as required.
Prison authorities have allowed the media in today because they are concerned about reports lately that the jail is a Thai ''hellhole.''
The jail was built for 700 people and now holds close to 1200. About 20 expats are among the prisoners.
Officials at the jail are keen to point out that there is no alternative facility for now, so prisoners have to be accommodated as best they can.
A couple of westerners, being held in the section in front of the hill, gesture towards Phuketwan. It is unclear what they want.
Behind the mobile medical clinic is the woodworking section, and the quality products produced at the prison are often put on sale at local festivals at Saphan Hin public park.
While we are looking on, an expat prisoner is called over the loudspeaker, and escorted to a seat in a spot surrounded by riot shields and helmets.
Nivacha Tehrem, a nurse from Phuket International Hospital, provides the blond, well-built prisoner with a jab of Twinrix, designed to provide protection against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, as well as possibly ward off TB.
The young man says he is a Swede, serving a sentence of two years and six months (but since reduced by half) for theft.
He seems quite cheerful, and says he is well into his sentence.
The inoculation, the nurse says, comes courtesy of the Swedish Consulate.
We leave the prison with the medical team, happy to step out into the outside world again.
For a glimpse of life on the island, check the Photo Album above. We were not permitted to take shots of prisoners' faces.
Phuket prisoners are in constant need of clothes. So are the distressed children of prisoners, who are cared for in a children's home near the jail. Anyone with clothes or toys to donate is welcome to drop them at the jail.