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Jakarta Post

Minister Yasonna Laoly sued for granting parole during pandemic

  • Tri Indah Oktavianti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 27, 2020   /   03:49 pm
Minister Yasonna Laoly sued for granting parole during pandemic A number of prisoners show their release letters after being released from the Tanjung Gusta jail (Lapas) in Medan, North Sumatra, on April 2. (JP/Apriadi Gunawan )

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly is being sued by civil society groups in Surakarta, Central Java, over his decision to give early release or parole to more than 30,000 inmates nationwide.

The minister has claimed that the assimilation program for prisoners and juvenile inmates is part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.

Official data shows that Indonesia has a total of 270,386 inmates and that it has exceeded more than twice the official capacity of its detention facilities. With overcrowded cells and unsanitary environments, prisons are considered in great danger of COVID-19 outbreaks.

On Thursday, civil society groups, namely the Mega Bintang Indonesia 1997 Foundation, the Association of Anti-Injustice Independent Society and the Guard and Watchdog of Indonesian Law Enforcement filed a lawsuit against the minister, the head of Central Java’s Law and Human Rights Office and a Surakarta prison warden in Surakarta public court.

"Most released convicts reoffend, and it makes the public anxious during the pandemic," said plaintiff Boyamin Saiman of the Mega Bintang Indonesia 1997 Foundation on Sunday.

"We represent the residents of Surakarta who now have to conduct night watches and spend extra money to install gates [in residential areas]," he added.

Boyamin demanded the minister retract the decision and send the released inmates back to prison. He suggested that the ministry implement a stricter selection processes and psychological tests for inmates if reintegration was to be attempted again.

On Mar. 30, the ministry issued Ministerial Decree No. 19/2020 on the release and reintegration of prisoners and juvenile inmates to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Read also: Overcrowded and understaffed, prisons scramble to protect inmates from infection

According to the plaintiffs, the reintegration process did not meet proper standards.

"The defendants implemented a very simplistic mechanism without examining the psychological condition of inmates prior to release," Boyamin said, adding that this lack of oversight was the cause of recidivism.

In addition, the plaintiffs accused the government of being ignorant about the paroled convicts as the government was not keeping track of the released inmates in society.

"The main issues behind the lawsuit were actually the negligence, the careless acts and the violation of standardized principals prior to the decision to reintegrate inmates," said Boyamin.

Sarifuddin Sudding, a member of the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law, human rights and security, agreed that proper considerations had not been made in regards to reintegrating inmates.

"It [parole] was merely transactional and based only on the United Nations' recommendation without further considerations about the social impacts, especially in these tough economic conditions, where the job market has been badly hurt," he told the press on Monday.

Sarifuddin said the lawsuit must respected, as people had the right to take legal action when society was harmed by a regulation.