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Jakarta Post

Crime and (no) punishment

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, July 25, 2018   /   07:42 am
Crime and (no) punishment The story that came out of Sukamiskin Penitentiary last week was more like Beckett’s absurdist humor than the guilt-ridden tale of Crime and Punishment. (JP/Arya Dipa)

It is a storyline that would make Dostoevsky turn in his grave. The story that came out of Sukamiskin Penitentiary last week was more like Beckett’s absurdist humor than the guilt-ridden tale of Crime and Punishment. Not only are those locked up inside Sukamiskin Penitentiary free from the guilt of having stolen taxpayers’ money, graft convicts there can continue living large behind the prison walls, and while we are not looking they can get out of their gilded cells anytime they want.

Over the weekend, thanks to the work of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), we again found evidence that the country’s prison system is corrupt, and the prison where the government locks up most graft convicts particularly so. Sukamiskin warden Wahid Husein appeared to make light of his arrest and was in a jovial mood, laughing and smiling, while being questioned by KPK investigators. 

Wahid was arrested by KPK investigators on suspicion that he accepted bribes in the form of cash and luxury SUVs in exchange for allowing graft inmates to stay in what looks like an upmarket studio apartment, equipped with a flat screen television, a compact kitchen, air-conditioning and water heater. For this VIP cell, Wahid allegedly charged inmates at least Rp 200 million (US$13,750). For Rp 500 million, inmates could get additional services such as access to cell phones. For those with deep pockets, it is likely possible to spend more time outside the prison, as in the case of Fuad Amin, a former regent of East Java’s Bangkalan, as well as businessman Tubagus Chaeri Wardana, aka Wawan, the brother of former Banten governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah, who were missing from their cells when the KPK raided Sukamiskin. It was not immediately known where the two inmates had spent the night, but the Law and Human Rights Ministry later claimed Wawan had returned to the prison, while Fuad was hospitalized at Borromeus Hospital in Bandung.

The most heartbreaking thing about this is that the whole episode is a betrayal of the KPK’s hard work in investigating corrupt individuals and building cases against them. It doesn’t matter if the KPK has a conviction rate of 100 percent if those who end up in jail continue to live the high life thanks to their ill-gotten wealth. 

But there is unlikely to be any serious fallout from what happened in Sukamiskin. Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly is a political appointee, representing the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) no less, so it is difficult to expect President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to fire him as punishment for the latest mess. 

On the other hand, it is impossible for the KPK to set up its own prison given that the Law and Human Rights Ministry is the only authority in charge of the country’s correctional system. And as the country’s correctional system is plagued by corruption, maybe we should consider seizing all assets from graft convicts as the primary means of punishment. 

Maybe jail terms should be optional.