Bringing Justice to the Criminal Justice System
    Category: Column By : James Kallman Read : 607 Date : Wednesday, August 02, 2017 - 10:07:17

    Retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration and rehabilitation are the five stages normally associated with any criminal justice system, and differences occur only in where the emphasis is placed. The U.S. favors a punitive approach, which is perhaps why, according to World Prison Brief figures, it leads the world with 666 out of every 100,000 people being incarcerated. At the other end of the scale is northern European countries, which have a restorative justice approach, with Norway having a prison rate of just 74 per 100,000.

    At 81 per 100,000 people, the lowest prison rate of reporting ASEAN countries, Indonesia would appear to favor the Norwegian approach, as per the Law 12/1995 on Correctional Institution. For example, Article 2 provides: “The correctional system is organized in order to establish the prisoners to become complete human beings, to evaluate their mistakes, to improve themselves and not to repeat the offenses, thus they can be accepted by the community, be actively involved in the development of the community, and be able to live fairly as good and responsible citizens.”

    However, there is a gulf between text and truth. Despite the noble words, few prisoners believe they receive equality of treatment and services, along with other values, such as respect for human dignity and recognition that loss of freedom is sufficient punishment, as is provided in Article 4. Of course, some must be removed from circulation for the safety of society, but key to the Norwegian approach is the expectation that even these people can one day be rehabilitated. One doubts that the same belief holds true in Indonesia where, in fact, many prisoners come from vulnerable exploited groups. The current failure of the Indonesian system is that they and their families continue to be exploited every step of the way, preventing them from becoming more productive members of society.

    The reasons are many, not helped by the pressures placed on facilities across the board by the 23% rise in Indonesia’s population to 260 million now from 2000. In the same time, actual prison numbers have more than tripled from 53,399 in 2000 to 292,623 at yearend 2016. Prison facilities have been strained to the bursting point, with occupancy rates at 175% of official capacity. It is a potentially dangerous cocktail when mixed with understaffing, and inadequate training of prison officers; small wonder that recidivism is on the rise.

    This comes at no small cost to Indonesia, both direct in the provision and staffing of additional facilities to cope with growing prison numbers as well as the loss of potentially productive citizens. A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice report on recidivism found that strict incarceration actually increases the likelihood of prisoners reoffending after release, whereas facilities that incorporate “cognitive-behavioral programs rooted in social learning theory” are far more effective in keeping them out of jail. Here is another lesson for Indonesia to learn.