The Jakarta Post
The initiative cautions against sending books that contain religious or racially discriminatory or leftist teachings as the books have to go through screenings at the respective prisons. (Shutterstock/OFFFSTOCK)
The Books for Tomorrow initiative was launched on Tuesday at Jentera Law School, Central Jakarta. The initiative aims to collect books for death row inmates in prisons across Indonesia, including Nusakambangan Penitentiary in Central Java.
Data from Amnesty International reveal that there are more than 300 death row inmates in Indonesia, the ninth-highest number in the world.
Fatia Maulidiyanti, an initiator, said that many libraries in Indonesian penal centers were in dire need of books. "There are libraries in prisons, probably because it's a must, but there is not enough concern about the books themselves, from the range of books to their quality," said Fatia, who also works at the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS).
Books are considered as the only diversion for death row inmates while waiting for their execution or in some cases, freedom. Fellow initiator Raynov Tumorang Pamitori, who works for the NGO Reprieve, said that many of his partner organizations told stories of inmates needing books and other reading materials.
"There are not many activities to divert them from their problems," said Raynov, "Reading can also reduce psychological stress among inmates."
Although there are other activities for inmates, there is nothing to do when they are back in their cells, according to Fatia. "In the cells, there is only them and their thoughts. This could lead to suicidal tendencies," she said.
The name Books for Tomorrow also implies that there is hope for the future. Books are believed to provide moral incentives or motivation to live and to live better.
"We also want to humanize death row inmates," said Raynov, "We want society to care more, even for those who are considered to be the most scorned and least worthy of life."
In the long run, the initiative also aims to achieve reform of the penal system. "If possible, we would like the government to put a moratorium on executions or to end the death penalty altogether," said Fatia.
The initiative will accept book donations from April 23 to May 23. The books should be sent to the Daniel Lev Law Library in South Jakarta. At the launch of the initiative there was no dropbox outside Jakarta, although Raynov said that further announcements would be made through Twitter @Book4Tomorrow and Instagram @BooksForTomorrow.
According to the initiative, the recommended types of books include fiction, encyclopedias, religious and self-development books, magazines, comics and illustrated books. The initiative cautions against sending books that contain religious or racially discriminatory or leftist teachings as the books have to go through screenings at the respective prisons.