In Indonesia, 6,500 Convicts Receive Christmas Sentence Cuts

By Rizky Amelia 26 December 2012

JAKARTA—Nearly 6,500 Christian inmates have received sentence cuts from the Indonesian government this Christmas, ranging from 15 days to two months each.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s directorate general of corrections said 6,491 prisoners nationwide had qualified for the remissions, 118 of whom would walk free as a result.

Sihabuddin, the director general of corrections, said that East Nusa Tenggara accounted for the most inmates who received sentence cuts, at 1,739 inmates.

This was followed by North Sumatra with 1,291 inmates and North Sulawesi with 659.

Sentence cuts are traditionally handed out by the government during public holidays, including Independence Day on Aug. 17, and on major religious holidays—Christmas for Christians, Idul Fitri for Muslims, Galungan for Hindus and Wesak for Buddhists.

The policy is also aimed at easing the chronic overcrowding in the country’s penitentiaries, which are nearly 15 percent over capacity this year.

“The situation now is that we’re facing 14.8 percent overcapacity at our 439 penitentiaries nationwide,” Sihabuddin said.

He added that the prison system was built to hold 102,466 inmates, but there were currently 152,071 people behind bars. Of those, 48,732 are in remand awaiting or undergoing trial.

Sihabuddin said that only eight of the country’s 33 provinces did not have an overcrowding problem at their prisons.

“These are Yogyakarta, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua and West Papua,” he said.

Last year, the government announced a moratorium on remissions for corruption convicts, only to come under heavy criticism when it revealed that 12 such offenders had been granted sentence cuts for Independence Day this year.

The Justice Ministry insists that the moratorium is still in place, but its regional offices still nominated dozens of graft convicts for a sentence cut this Christmas.

However, all the graft and drug offenders nominated for remissions had their applications denied. A third group facing a similar ban is terrorists.