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Indonesia releases 22,000 prisoners over COVID-19 fears

Government set to release total of 30,000 prisoners over a week, official says

Nicky Aulia Widadio and Erric Permana   | 03.04.2020
Indonesia releases 22,000 prisoners over COVID-19 fears MEDAN, INDONESIA - APRIL 2: Ex-convicts leave Penitentiary Class I in Medan after receiving exemption letters amid the coronavirus outbreak on April 2, 2020 in North Sumatra province, Indonesia. A total of 22,158 inmates in Indonesia have been released in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in overcrowded detention facilities, an official said on Friday. ( Kiki Cahyadi - Anadolu Agency )

JAKARTA, Indonesia

A total of 22,158 inmates in Indonesia have been released in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in overcrowded detention facilities, an official said on Friday.

"This is part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities," said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for Directorate General of Corrections.

She said the released prisoners are those who have served two-thirds of their sentences.

Aprianti added that the government is set to release a total of 30,000 prisoners over the week.

“However, the number does not include those convicted for corruption, terrorism, and drug-related crimes,” she said.

Meanwhile, the country’s Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said he would revise regulations to pave the way for the release of excluded offenders.

Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), a watchdog NGO, criticized the minister’s plan, saying the policy was far-fetched.

ICW said releasing corruption convicts had nothing to do with the prevention of virus transmission as they mostly locked up alone in one cell.

"Correctional facility for corruption cases in Sukamiskin, West Java, in fact, provides the privilege of one cell per prisoner," said Ramadhana Kurnia, a researcher for ICW.

As of March 31, the number of inmates in Indonesia’s prisons reached 270,386, which exceeded their capacity of 131,931, according to government data.

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo

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