Strategies to Reduce Overcrowding in Indonesia: Causes, Impacts, and Solutions

In the formation of law, the purpose of the State should be the main reference for lawmakers to think about. The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia specifies four purposes of the State, i.e., to protect all the people of Indonesia and the motherland of Indonesia, to improve public welfare, to educate life of the people and to participate towards the establishment of a world order based on freedom, perpetual peace and social justice. The law, hence, is formulated to support the achievement of the purposes of the state as such.

Therefore, in an effort to reform and to formulate criminal law the four purposes of the state mentioned above must be referred in any endeavour to formulate criminal law. The formulation of criminal law shall in no case intend to solely satisfy the desire of deterrent effect. Law, including criminal law, as a matter of fact, is a tool of social engineering, but it should be systematically used. It is necessary to begin with thorough problem identification, including the identification of targeted community and how the law is enforced and its impacts.

One of the most obvious impacts of criminal law formulation is the overuse of imprisonment. It’s widely held basic assumption that imprisonment, including the detention of suspect/accused, is very useful in producing deterrent effect. The problem is that the side effects crime prevention efforts through imprisonment have never been thought of seriously.

The present problems brought about by imprisonment-oriented criminal law enforcement have resulted in an overcrowding that has pushed Indonesia to an extreme point with 188% overcrowding. This situation has created various problems ranging from escaping of convicts and detainees form a prison, prison riots, drug circulation controlled from Prison, Prison set ablaze by inmates, to illegal levies taken by Prison officers, and various other problems. Such a situation is not just the result of mismanagement on the part of Prison officers or the lack of equipment and infrastructure, it is more the result of complex relations between the system and it’s operational with all their limitations.

This research emphasizes the discussion on the implications of overcrowded inmates and overcrowding situation in most Indonesian Prisons/Detention Centres. Overcrowded inmates here refer to a situation where there are more inmates than a Prison/detention centre can properly hold. Overcrowding situation refers to a crisis situation that occurs when the demand for space in prison exceeds the capacity for inmates therein.

The present overcrowding situation of Indonesian Correctional Institutions/Detention centres deserves serious attention from the government, because it will create enormous damages for inmates such as unfulfilled basic rights of every detainee/convicts and their families as well as the State as the correctional authority. Although the problem has been lasting for years, Indonesia has not found yet the right formulation to overcome it.

Without the right formulation to overcome this overcrowding situation, Indonesia will always have to confront a vicious cycle. The expectation to transform convicts into better individual through prison-based rehabilitation programs is almost unlikely. To address overcrowding, it is of necessity to take a set of stages to reform criminal policies including overcoming various negative impacts of detention and imprisonment.

This study aims to provide a complete picture of conditions and implications of Correctional Institutions and detention centres overcrowding in Indonesia. It is also intended to be a guided and measurable reference for relevant agencies and other concerned parties to solve the existing overcrowding problems so that the correctional purposes could be achieved.

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