Indonesia’s lethal jail blaze highlights area’s overcrowded jails


A blaze broke out at Tangerang jail close to Indonesia’s capital metropolis Jakarta final week whereas inmates have been sleeping. In complete, 41 prisoners died and eight others have been severely injured.

The ability homes over 2,000 inmates, exceeding its official restrict of 600, based on authorities knowledge. Block C, the place the hearth broke out, housed 122 inmates on the time ⁠— far over its supposed capability of 40.

Tangerang jail isn’t an exception. In Indonesia and in a lot of Southeast Asia, overcrowding is frequent. Jail populations have been boosted by overcriminalisation, Usman Hamid, govt director of Amnesty Worldwide Indonesia, informed DW.

Increased incarceration charges have “not been accompanied by adequately growing and bettering detention services,” Hamid stated.

Prisoners residing in squalid situations

Overcrowding has resulted in prisoners throughout Indonesia struggling in situations that put their well-being in danger and threaten their lives, with many subjected to “remedies that quantity to merciless, inhuman or degrading remedy or punishment,” Hamid described.

“They could be disadvantaged of enough vitamin and medical care. They could not have sufficient air flow and light-weight. They could must take it in turns to lie right down to sleep as a result of their cells are so overcrowded. Their sanitary situations could also be abysmal and a severe hazard to well being. The result’s mortality and severe sickness within the jail inhabitants,” Hamid warned.

Elsewhere within the area, inmates face related situations. In Thailand, which has a number of the worst jail overcrowding on the planet, there are round 310,000 inmates incarcerated in 143 correctional services nationwide — greater than two occasions the system’s official capability, based on the nation’s Division of Corrections.

Thana (title modified) is a former inmate at a detention facility south of the capital Bangkok. The 30-year-old, who accomplished his jail time period a number of months in the past, spoke to DW about residing situations in the course of the incarceration.

“There was just one waist-high squat rest room for a cell with round 80-100 inmates sleeping in it,” Thana stated. “We slept shoulder to shoulder and end-to-end alongside different inmates.” He slept like that from the primary till the final day of his seven-month sentence for perjury.

“The sleeping dormitories are empty rooms. We got three blankets. I laid out one as a mattress, rolled one for a pillow and had the third as a canopy,” Thana described.

The issue is much more acute within the Philippines, the place “jail overcrowding is taken into account among the many worst on the planet,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty Worldwide’s Philippines researcher, informed DW.

A cops stands guard on the principal entrance gate of Tangerang jail. (AP)

Based on the Bureau of Jail Administration and Penology, of the 470 jails nationwide, 356 are thought of congested.

“The Quezon Metropolis jail, for instance, has gained notoriety for its shockingly excessive ranges of overcrowding the place inmates are seen taking turns sleeping on staircases or on the ground of an open-air basketball courtroom,” Chhoa-Howard stated.

“Within the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic, police arrested over 100,000 individuals for violating quarantine guidelines,” Chhoa-Howard informed DW, who added that whereas Philippine authorities stated in April that they might cease locking up quarantine violators, “many have been nonetheless detained and thus jail overcrowding worsened.”

What’s inflicting the overcrowding of prisons?

Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are among the many high 10 international locations with the biggest jail populations worldwide, based on the Institute for Crime and Coverage Justice Analysis.

The Philippines, Thailand in addition to Cambodia additionally rank within the high 10 of nations with overwhelmed penitentiaries, whereas Indonesia is ranked twenty second.

Aggressive enforcement of narcotics legal guidelines throughout the area is a significant component.

“A complete of 80% of Thailand’s prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related offences,” stated Phiset Sa-ardyen, govt director of the Thailand Institute of Justice.

“The drug regulation in Thailand has a low threshold for what is taken into account as presumption of intent to promote. This has resulted in a considerable enhance within the variety of prisoners in Thailand, resulting in jail overcrowding,” he added.

Within the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has infamously waged a warfare on medicine that has resulted in a significant surge in jail populations.

“Over the previous 5 years, jail overcrowding has additionally worsened considerably following the arrest and imprisonment of tens of hundreds of individuals within the ‘warfare on medicine,’” stated Chhoa-Howard. “Lots of these in detention are there for minor, non-violent drug-related offences.”

Harsh narcotics legal guidelines are additionally considered as a significant driver of overcrowding in Indonesia, whose authorized system favors incarcerating drug customers, reasonably than their rehabilitation.

Lowering detainee inhabitants

Based on Phiset, “Thailand is transferring in direction of addressing the foundation reason behind jail overcrowding.” In August, the Thai parliament handed a brand new narcotics invoice “which goals to emphasize prevention and remedy and fewer extreme punishment for small-scale drug customers.”

Rights teams have known as on authorities to launch non-violent offenders with a purpose to scale back overcrowding, whereas Phiset careworn the significance of “guaranteeing that jail is used as a measure of final resort.”

Whereas Thailand seems to be taking steps to sort out overcrowding, Hamid is much less optimistic concerning the scenario in Indonesia.

Citing the case of a college lecturer convicted for defamation after criticising a college’s recruitment course of in a Whatsapp group, Hamid stated: “Overcrowding won’t ever be solved if even probably the most benign disagreements and variations of opinion can lead to jail time.”

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