Indonesia eyes remote islands to relocate its overcrowded jails

An Indonesian prisoner meeting his family in Langkat, North Sumatra province, on May 16, 2019. Indonesian prisons are overflowing with convicts and authorities are worried about their negative influence on city dwellers.
An Indonesian prisoner meeting his family in Langkat, North Sumatra province, on May 16, 2019. Indonesian prisons are overflowing with convicts and authorities are worried about their negative influence on city dwellers.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesian prisons are overflowing with convicts and the authorities, worried about their negative influence on city dwellers, are exploring shifting them to some of the uninhabited islands in the archipelago.

Overcrowded jails mean petty criminals like chicken thieves are lodged together with drug traffickers and terrorists, according to Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto.

The inability to segregate inmates based on their crime poses risks of them "exchanging their expertise" with one another, he said.

Construction of new prisons in remote islands will also reduce the scope of inmates coming into contact with the public, the minister told a panel of lawmakers in Jakarta on Tuesday (June 25).

With most jails located in the middle of cities, it was easy for inmates to engage in nefarious activities, the Cabinet Secretariat said in a statement citing Mr Wiranto, a former military chief.

Indonesia can use some of the 6,000 uninhabited islands to relocate its crowded jails, Mr Wiranto said.

While Indonesian jails have a total capacity to accommodate only 127,006 people, they currently lodge 263,145 inmates, according to the Law and Human Rights Ministry.