Illustration of inmates in correctional institutions. (Antara Photo/Ampelsa)

Half of Escaped Prisoners Yet to Return After Central Sulawesi Earthquake

BY :JOY MUCHTAR

OCTOBER 01, 2018

Jakarta. Only about half of the more than 3,000 prisoners who escaped after an earthquake and tsunami struck Central Sulawesi last week have reported back to detention centers, an official said on Monday (01/10).

The government said eight prisons and detention centers with a combined population of 3,220 inmates in Palu and Donggala were heavily damaged when a magnitude-7.4 earthquake, followed by a 3-meter tsunami, hit the area on Friday evening. This resulted in inmates rioting and burning down Donggala Detention Center to escape from the facility.

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There are still 1,357 inmates at large, according to Rika A., spokeswoman for the directorate general of penitentiaries at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

Most of the missing inmates are from Palu Prison, Palu Detention Center, the Palu Special Child Counseling Institution and Palu Women's Penitentiary, all of which were grossly overcrowded.

These prisons exceeded their capacity by up to 123 percent, according to Sri Puguh Budi Utami, director general of penitentiaries.

It is believed that most of the inmates fled over fears that the damaged prison buildings may collapse on them.

"In terms of ethics and legal morality, that was understandable because they acted instinctively, based on the threat to their lives. Also, they wanted to know the condition of their families outside. This is evident from the fact that many reported back to the prisons and detention centers," Utami said.

Temporary Freedom

As the prison authorities are currently unable to accommodate the inmates, they will be allowed to remain in the community or near their families for the time being, Utami said.

However, all inmates are required to report to the authorities after seven days to give the government time to repair the damaged facilities, she added.

Utami said the government will prioritize the restoration of damaged detention centers, including repairs to collapsed outer walls at Palu Prison and Parigi Detention Center and cracked walls in the remand center of Palu Detention Center.

She said the facilities will request assistance from the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to secure the prison and monitor prisoners.

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