News & Insights

Restorative Justice and Human Rights in Indonesia

men talking at table being COVID safe

Prison overcrowding is a critical health and human rights issue in Indonesia. By the end of 2019, the total number of inmates in all prisons across the country had reached approximately 265,000, almost double the maximum capacity of 135,000.

In some prisons the situation is much bleaker. For example, Balikpapan prison is at 482 per cent capacity, Jakarta (Cipinang) prison is at 300 per cent, and Bali (Kerobokan) prison is at 314 per cent.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating overpopulation problems in Indonesia’s prison system. Prison populations are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because the virus can easily be transmitted from communities through guards to prisoners. Overcrowded prisons make isolation difficult and social distancing impossible.

Managed and implemented by Cardno, the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice 2 (AIPJ2) and its partner The Asia Foundation, have convened a coalition of civil society partners and technical advisers to support Indonesia’s Directorate General of Corrections (DGC) of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights to mitigate the potential COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesian prisons.

The coalition consists of leading civil society organisations in this sector, such as the Center for Detention Studies (CDS), Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), and a leading epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia.

The coalition is providing key areas of support to DGC including:

  • policy advice and communications support to explain prison releases to the public;
  • epidemiology advice in developing COVID-19 prevention guidelines;
  • innovations in data management;
  • longer term advocacy for a change in paradigm from punitive to restorative justice, ensuring that people are not imprisoned for minor crimes.

AIPJ2 and partners have been advocating for strategies to reduce overcrowding for many years but have been limited by a lack of legal authority for alternatives to detention, and a punitive mindset towards criminal justice among the general public and their political representatives.

The urgent need to address the overcrowding problem due to the heightened risk of COVID-19 has significantly accelerated our collective advocacy to shift from a paradigm of punitive to restorative justice and build a national policy through Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

Under the strong leadership of Bappenas, restorative justice has been included in the nation’s 2020-2024 Medium Term Development Plan as a national priority, and implementation of a Restorative Justice Road Map has been included in the Government Work Plan for 2022.

Restorative justice can be part of the solution to the problem of overcrowding in prisons, as well as creating a more humane and efficient criminal justice system, more appropriate for Indonesian society.

For further information contact:

Emer Purdon
Contractor Representative – AIPJ2