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September 8, 2008

Indonesian govt plans special jails for graft convicts

The government will construct special prisons for those found guilty of corruption, in a bid to intensify its war against graft, reported the Jakarta Post.

The country is in dire need of new facilities to meet the rising number of white collar criminals, as existing prisons are already overcrowded, Justice and Human Rights Minister Andi Mattalata said.

"We have discussed the plan with the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission). Now, it's up to the government budget to realize the plan," he told reporters on the sidelines of his visit to the Bekasi penitentiary.

The KPK was established by the government in 2004 to help fight graft in the country, having assisted in the arrest of several lawmakers and businesspeople involved in corruption.

"Priority for the special prisons will go to large cities, where corruption is believed to be widespread," Andi said.

Gifts for government officials used to be considered halal or permitted under Islam, he explained, adding "it has now become part of graft practices," leading to an increase in the number of corruption cases in the country.

Indonesia currently has special rehabilitation centers for children, women and drug dealers.

Prisons across the country are facing overcrowding problems: accommodating, on average, twice as many inmates as they have capacity for, Andi said.

"Prison capacity is only some 80,000, but they (prisons) are now occupied by over 137,000 inmates. It's a big problem for us," he added, specifically citing the Bekasi prison, which, with a capacity of 350, currently detains some 1,800 inmates.

Aside from overcrowded prisons, the country faces problems with respect to the quality and quantity of prison employees, he said.

"In the past, prison wardens only dealt with petty criminals, such as thieves. Now, they're dealing with white collar criminals. They have to adapt to the trend," Andi added.

The Bekasi administration has allocated 1.1 billion rupiah ($118,280) to construct a new building -- expected to accommodate 110 inmates -- in the penitentiary compound to meet the
expected influx of prisoners.

"The building will provide more space for inmates as the prison is already overcrowded," warden chief Deddi Syamsudin said.

To alleviate overcrowding, the government will give out remissions to inmates who exhibit good behavior during their prison terms, Andi said.

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