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Jakarta Post

Prisons less overcrowded thanks to early release of inmates over COVID-19

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, May 11, 2020   /   08:17 pm
Prisons less overcrowded thanks to early release of inmates over COVID-19 Prisoners show their release letters after being released from the Tanjung Gusta jail (Lapas) in Medan on April 2. A total of 143 Tanjung Gusta Lapas prisoners were to be released to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (JP/Apriadi Gunawan )

The Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Corrections Directorate General has recorded a decrease in prison overcrowding following the early release of prisoners and juvenile inmates in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Corrections Director General Reinhard Silitonga said on Monday that the prison population had dropped to 75 percent above the intended capacity from 106 percent above capacity after more than 39,000 inmates were released early or granted parole to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.

"The policy has reduced the number of prisoners and inmates, which was initially 270,231 [or 206 percent of the intended capacity] to 231,609 [or 175 percent of the capacity]," Reinhard said on Monday in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs.

Read also: Activists, experts caution against slapdash reform to tackle prison overcrowding

The government plans to release or grant parole to a total of 50,000 prisoners under a regulation issued by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly on March 30. The former inmates will be under the continued supervision of the Correctional Board (Bapas).

Reinhard also noted that authorities had sent at least 95 of the 39,000 released inmates back to prison for various crimes, including drug dealing and theft, to serve their remaining prison time. If found guilty of new crimes, their sentences would be extended.

The most recent case of recidivism was a theft in Pangkep regency, South Sulawesi, carried out by a man who had been released less than a month ago.

"The number of cases is small, but we take this seriously," Reinhard said.

Reinhard said the policy had been successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities. The directorate general has so far recorded only one confirmed COVID-19 case in a prison in Bojonegoro, East Java.

“The number of infections is relatively low. This is because of the new Law and Human Rights Ministry regulation, which mandates early release for prisoners to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.