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Jakarta Post

Jokowi against releasing graft convicts amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Budi Sutrisno and Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 6, 2020   /   04:00 pm
Jokowi against releasing graft convicts amid COVID-19 pandemic President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gives a press statement about COVID-19 on March 16 at Bogor Palace, West Java. (Antara/Hafidz Mubarak)

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has expressed his opposition to a plan to release graft inmates to help prevent COVID-19 transmission in overcrowded prisons.

“I want to say that we have never talked about graft prisoners in our meetings,” the President said during a limited meeting on Monday. “The [early] release is only for general crime inmates.”

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly had previously planned to change the terms and conditions of sentences for prisoners and juvenile inmates through Human Rights Ministerial Regulation No.10/2020 and Human Rights Ministerial Decree No.19/2020.

If approved, the regulations would allow for the release of 300 graft convicts aged 60 years and above currently serving sentences in addition to 15,442 drug convicts who have served five to 10 years, 1,457 special crime convicts with chronic diseases and 53 foreign prisoners who have served two-thirds of their sentences.

The plan has received criticism from anticorruption activists, who have argued that corruption is regarded as an extraordinary crime, not a ordinary crime, and that the plan would do little to reduce overcrowding in prisons as graft convicts accounted for a small minority of inmates.

Jokowi said he had agreed to the release of inmates from overcrowded prisons that were considered at risk of rapid COVID-19 transmission, but said those freed would have to meet certain requirements.

“They cannot be released just like that, of course. There are conditions, and there will be supervision,” he said.

The authorities have so far released 5,500 inmates to reduce prison overcrowding.