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Indonesia: The Penal System
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Criminal Justice System > The Penal System


Indonesia's 441 prisons were administered by the Department of Corrections within the Department of Justice and included three categories of prisons based mainly on the number of inmates they could hold. The nine largest, or Class I prisons, held prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or death.

A 1990 study of Indonesian prison conditions conducted by Asia Watch found conditions harsh in most cases. Poor food, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate medical care were common, as were mistreatment and corruption. Overcrowding in ancient and inadequate facilities also occurred. The study noted the need for better training of prison personnel and renovation of prison facilities.

Several specialized prisons for women and two for youths were located in Java. Where it was not possible to confine such prisoners in separate institutions, as was usually the case outside of Java, efforts were made to segregate juvenile from adult offenders and females from males in separate sections of the same institution. Ordinarily, prisoners were permitted visits by family members and could receive limited amounts of food and other articles to supplement the minimal supplies they were issued. Under some circumstances, prisoners were permitted to spend their nights at home. Most prisons tried to provide medical service of some kind, although it was generally regarded as inadequate.

Rehabilitation provisions included literacy classes, moral and religious training, and workshops to teach crafts and skills. Some prisons operated small industries or agricultural enterprises that sold their products on the local market. Proceeds were used to pay a small wage to the working inmates, to buy recreational equipment, and to maintain buildings and grounds. In some prisons, inmates worked in fields outside the prison confines.

Although regular prisons often housed both convicted criminals and political prisoners, the latter were kept isolated from other prisoners. Political prisoners were also held in Kodam headquarters and in separate labor camps and detention facilities staffed by military personnel.

Between 1969 and 1979, Kopkamtib ran a separate penal colony on Buru Island for Group B prisoners, who were convicted on charges of indirect involvement in the 1965 attempted coup. In late 1979, following the nationwide release of Group B prisoners, the penal colony on Buru Island was closed and the island was designated a transmigration site.

Many released prisoners faced problems in reintegrating themselves into society because families were often shamed by the prisoner's incarceration or feared they would be discriminated against by officials or neighbors should they continue association with the released prisoners. In 1981 the nation's first prisoner's aid society was privately formed in Jakarta to help released prisoners overcome some of these difficulties and to find employment. Released political prisoners detained in connection with the 1965 attempted coup encountered particular problems upon their return to society. Their identification cards, which all Indonesians carry, had special markings indicating their status. Former political prisoners were denied employment in the civil service, the armed forces, and in essential industries. They were able to vote but could not hold any elected office. In some parts of the country they were required to check in regularly with local authorities and to inform them of their movements.

Data as of November 1992

Last Updated: November 1992

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Indonesia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 207 of 210


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