Free the Convicts?

Written by: Pryandhika G. F./FISIP 2018
Winner of Brawijaya’s Opinion #3

The United Nations has called for an immediate release of convicts in the times of COVID-19 due to the fear that prisons and a similar form of incarceration will be a fertile ground for COVID-19 infection, should Indonesia comply with this call by the United Nations to release convicts? Yes! Yes, we should. We should in fact, seize the moment and reform our justice.

Indonesia’s prisons are already at the point where the prisons are considered operating at over-capacity. The size of the cells is packed full like sardines, the small size of the cells coupled with the dense amount of people in a single room is a recipe for disaster. Research on COVID-19 found that the COVID-19 is able to spread via droplets in lingering in the air and that gusts of wind are able to push these droplets around and potentially spread them around in the area. To deal with this there will be heavy renovation or re-tooling of prisons needed in order to ensure the safety of the convicts, this will require more funding to the prisons. We are of course, familiar with the term “tumpul keatas, tajam kebawah”. That itself tells a lot about who is the convicts in the prisons. The selective practice of law to target dissidents or low-level criminals. What about the big catch then? Well, we’ve seen how fancy the corruptor’s cell looks like and we’ve heard the freedom of movement they are privileged with. Migrant workers live worse-off than they do. They are not punished at all, these talks of holding corruptors for their crime is only done to appease the public just enough and to give the appearance that something is done to hold them to their crime. Worse, is the fact that their livelihood is paid off by taxpayer’s money. So once again, why not just release them?

We see several cases of the convicts who are released from prisons returning to their old ways of criminal acts. Some argue that this is a reason to keep the convicts in the prison, however, I view this as the ineffectiveness of the prison system itself. Prison does not solve the socioeconomic causes of crime, they just hide the “criminal” from society for a period of time in an isolated place. Neither will it “reform” the convicts, it will only suppress it. Continuing the practices of prisons as punishment for crimes without actively mending and fixing the socioeconomic rift so commonly found as the reason for the committed crime is like a dog chasing its own tail. Perhaps we should reflect and ponder more about the problems of our society and the causes of crime in the first place. What will they do then, when they are released, what if they end up jobless or became just another potential COVID-19 patients? Then, here, we see even further that the role of prison is to hide the social problem from the public. Socioeconomic rift, lack of jobs available, and other forms of structural problems in our society. Seriously, the actions undertaken by the ex-convicts after their release will seriously reflect the effectiveness of prisons itself. Perhaps for these extraordinary times they shall be given education about COVID-19. The times of COVID-19 is a time of many shocks and tragedies, and in the midst of confusion we should see the chaos as the opportunity of change to do better than we did before. So, why not free the convicts

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Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia Chapter Universitas Brawijaya #AboveAndBeyond

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FPCI Brawijaya

Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia Chapter Universitas Brawijaya #AboveAndBeyond