Inmates sunbathing in a prison in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Wednesday. (Antara Photo/Makna Zaezar)

Indonesia Releases 30,000 Prisoners as Covid-19 Cases Double in a Week


APRIL 02, 2020

Jakarta. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry passed a new decree on Thursday allowing the release of 30,000 prisoners, including juvenile delinquents, to avoid mass coronavirus infections in Indonesia's overcrowded jails. 

"We are trying to suppress the spread of Covid-19 in our prison system," Nugroho, the acting director-general for correctional facilities, said on Wednesday.


"The inmates are vulnerable because most of them share a cell. The risk of contagion is high since our jails are overcrowded," he said. 

Indonesia has 1,677 coronavirus cases by Wednesday, almost double the number a week ago. There have been 157 deaths and only 103 recoveries.

The government has imposed a large-scale social distancing that includes the closure of schools and offices and a ban on religious gatherings, but still allows some economic activities to go on. 

The ministry said the inmates would be tested for Covid-19 before they can be released. 

"They will be given a medical check-up and the wardens will give them instructions. We don't want them to infect anyone at home," Nugroho said.

The ministerial decree allows only petty criminals to be released, not inmates convicted for more serious crimes. 

"We will not release prisoners convicted for corruption, illegal logging, terrorism, drug crimes, gross human rights crimes or transnational organized crimes," Nugroho said.

People sentenced to 5-10 years for drug use who have served at least two-thirds of their sentence will also be released.

The authorities will keep monitoring the released inmates once they are out of jail. 

"They will have to provide an address and a phone number. Most of them will stay with their family and they will not be allowed to get out of the house," Nugroho said.

The ministry expects to release over 30,000 inmates for seven days until April 4. 

As of Wednesday, the ministry had already released 13,430 of them. 

Other countries have also taken the same measure to avoid mass infection of the coronavirus inside their prisons. Iran has released 85,000 prisoners, Afghanistan 10,000 and the United States over a thousand.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Indonesian jails had been limiting family visits, switching them online using video calls.

They have also installed handwashing facilities and disinfectant chambers and distributed hand sanitizers to the inmates.