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Government lays out plans for prison reform

Jakarta Post - October 17, 2016

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta The Law and Human Rights Ministry is set to increase the capacity of penitentiaries nationwide by 5,000 by the end of the year in an effort to help ease overcrowding in correctional facilities.

The plan is among the ministry's efforts to improve the management of prisons in the country, which is one of the facets of the government's ambitious legal reform agenda.

No details were available regarding the prisons expected to have their capacities increased, but Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said previously that Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra, and Salemba Penitentiary in Jakarta were among the most overcrowded facilities in the country.

Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary currently houses around 3,000 inmates, three times its capacity, while Salemba Penitentiary, which has a capacity of 750, currently accommodates around 3,500 inmates.

Other plans include the relocation of inmates from overcrowded prisons, additional wardens and the elimination of illegal levies inside prisons, said Yasonna. "We will implement the plans one by one," the minister said.

Indonesia has 477 detention centers and penitentiaries with a capacity of 118,750 but they are occupied by 199,380 inmates, 133,084 of whom are serving sentences, while the rest are on remand. Prisons in the country are overseen by 33 regional offices.

Having issued numerous stimulus packages related to economic development, the government announced last week it would also focus on legal reform in order to restore public trust in the country's law-enforcement system.

The first step of the legal reform, which revolves around efforts to simplify overlapping regulations, create effective legal enforcement and improve legal culture, focuses on five areas, such as the eradication of ubiquitous illegal levies and better management of inmates in prison.

Yasonna added that the ministry was also planning to build new prisons on outer islands, akin to Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap, Central Java, to accommodate inmates convicted of extraordinary crimes such as terrorism, drug offenses and corruption.

Prison overcrowding has frequently led to breakdowns of order while at the same time raising public awareness of poor conditions inside penitentiaries.

In April, inmates of Banceuy Penitentiary in Bandung, West Java, ran amok and set fire to the prison office after a drug convict killed himself while being held in isolation.

The lack of control and oversight due to overcrowding has also allowed a flourishing narcotics trade to develop within prisons, and drug kingpins remain able to control their businesses from behind bars.

Yasonna has also expressed his optimism that the ministry will be able to relocate inmates from overcrowded prisons to less occupied ones, with details of relocations being deliberated in the Office of the Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister.

Law and Human Rights Ministry data show that, as of September, prisons in only six out of 33 regions in the country were not overcrowded: Yogyakarta, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, West Papua and West Sulawesi.

The ministry's prison reform plan was not a panacea for overcapacity in penitentiaries, said Institute for Criminal Justice Reform executive director Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono.

As long as judges still promote punitive approaches such as hefty sentences, more inmates would have to be accommodated by the government in prisons nationwide.

Supriyadi said the ministry would have to conduct a thorough study prior to the relocation scheme, as the current mechanism allowed inmates to be imprisoned near where their families lived.

"If you are an inmate in Wirogunan Penitentiary [in Yogyakarta near your family], do you want to be relocated to Sukamiskin Penitentiary [in Bandung]? It's that simple."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/10/17/govt-lays-out-plans-prison-reform.html.

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