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Death of Prisoners: Failure of Sentencing

The birth of prison is thought to be in line with the change of sentence objective, from retaliation principle to rehabilitation principle. Criminal perpetrator is not only acknowledged as a person that causes suffering, but also as someone who has committed a mistake and could be guided again. However, prison sentencing policy implementation in the end betrays this aspiration.

Problems that are encountered are such as prison over-capacity, unfulfilled human rights, violent culture formation in the prison, high recidivism rate, and social relations disconnection between the inmates and their family. These show that prison sentencing discourse still contradicts the initial objective of prison. The rationale of the birth of prison is discontinued because of the situation’s contradiction and irrationality. Among those problems, the problem of death in the prison is the most contradictory characteristic of sentencing discourse. It is as if death makes prison absurdity perfect.

Besides the rhetoric sentimental reason that no one wants to die inside prison, death also contradicts prison’s rehabilitative objective. Assistance that is participated by the inmates – except for those with lifetime sentence – is useless or gone because it cannot be practiced in the targeted destination, which is in the community outside prison. Prison then becomes not as a transit or temporary place, but it becomes inmates’ last station, because in the prison they meet their destiny as humans: death.

The condition is exacerbated if the death is not normal, such as because of accident, homicide, suicide, and substance overdose inside prison. In the United States, the country whose inmate population is the biggest in the world, around 967 inmates died inside prisons in 2013. About 34% of the total number of death was caused by suicide.

Because prison is a state facility –at least in Indonesia—therefore, the main actor that is responsible for deaths inside prisons that are not normal is the state, represented by the Directorate General of Corrections. Although death could be caused by the inmates themselves, corrections institution is the manager that has the task to ensure that prisons could fulfil its main objective as rehabilitation media, including in carrying out management so that riot will not happen and suicide can be prevented.

Regardless the absurdity of sentencing implementation, this practice is still considered as important to exist because Indonesia does not have alternative sentences that have been proven to have good implementation. However, it does not mean that the irrational practice in prison-sentencing that causes death should not be challenged and fixed. Because of this reason, Community Legal Aid strives to document and monitor death events inside correctional facilities in 2016. Hopefully this documentation could clarify the absurd situation of death inside Indonesia’s correctional facilities.

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