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Activists, experts caution against slapdash reform to tackle prison overcrowding

first_imgYasonna told lawmakers at last Thursday’s teleconference that he would formally request approval from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to resume deliberations on the revised KUHP and Correctional Facilities Law that had been carried over from the previous legislative session.Widespread protests from thousands of students and activists had forced Jokowi to delay the deliberations in September 2019. The protests criticized the deliberations for commencing just weeks before the end of the previous legislative session, as well as articles that they said would roll back decades of political reform to the New Order era.The revised KUHP and Correctional Facilities Law would automatically void a 2012 Government Regulation on the rights of prisoners, which stipulates stringent criteria to determine the eligibility for sentence remissions and parole for inmates convicted of extraordinary crimes like corruption, drug crimes and terrorism.Yasonna told lawmakers this time that he intended to revise the 2012 regulation to facilitate the conditional release of around 300 graft convicts aged 60 and above, among others.Yasonna also aims to release 30,000 convicts of general crimes who have served at least two-thirds of their jail terms to prevent outbreaks in the country’s overcrowded prisons, as part of the law ministry’s COVID-19 prevention measure.Read also: Overcrowded and understaffed, prisons scramble to protect inmates from infectionFollowing immediate objections from antigraft activists who questioned the motive behind the inclusion of corruption convicts that represented only a tiny proportion of the prison population, Jokowi was quick to clarify on Monday that his administration had never considered corruption convicts under the scheme.According to the ministry’s February data, Indonesia has locked up 4,891 corruption convicts, far fewer than 91,308 convicts serving their sentences for drug trafficking and 46,794 convicts service time for drug abuse. Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly’s latest plan to revisit prison reform is not without controversy. The growing number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has reignited the debate on reducing overcrowding at the country’s prisons, prompting lawmakers to consider overhauling the correctional system.The government has moved fast to rally the support of the House of Representatives, which agreed to resume deliberating the controversial revisions to the Criminal Code (KUHP) and the 1995 Correctional Facilities Law, which could pave the way to end prison overcrowding.The 524 prisons and detention centers across the country hold 268,919 inmates including some 60,000 detainees, more than double the maximum capacity of 132,107 inmates, according to the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s February 2020 data. It has also been reported that graft convicts enjoy arguably less cramped prison conditions compared to prisoners convicted of other crimes.Sukamiskin penitentiary in Bandung, West Java, for example, had 464 inmates in March, including 366 corruption convicts and five detainees, about 100 inmates fewer than its maximum capacity of 560 inmates.While the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) initially said that it was open to the idea, it now says it is against the plan to grant early releases to graft convicts.Anticorruption activists have said that reducing prison overcrowding is not as simple as granting early releases or remissions. Rigorous overhaul of Indonesia’s correctional system and codifications in the KUHP, the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP) and other related laws was pivotal to developing long-term solutions. They also said that any amendments or revisions, including to the KUHP, should consider additional alternatives to imprisonment.Activists also slammed the House’s apparent haste to resume deliberating the KUHP on the pretext of the COVID-19 outbreak. They said that doing so could only lead to excessive criminalization, given that the revised bill still included contentious provisions that would penalize activities in the personal domain, like consensual sex and cohabitation among unmarried people.“Depenalization and decriminalization should be promoted [in the amended KUHP] for of several criminal offenses, considering that overcrowding has been partly caused by overcriminalization in existing regulations,” said Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) researcher Genoveva Alicia.Over the last two decades of reform, Indonesia has been obsessed with criminalizing certain acts and putting those who have committed such as behind bars.From 1998 to 2015, at least 1,600 new crimes had been added to Indonesia’s criminal justice system, most of which carried cumulative punishments such as a prison term and a fine, said criminal law lecturer Miko Ginting of the Indonesia Jentera School of Law in Jakarta.The prison population has grown steadily over the years, from around 117,000 in 2010 to 163,000 in 2014 and to 256,000 in 2018, according to the World Prison Brief (WPB) online database, hosted by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at the University of London.Rising incarceration (JP/Swi Handono)Indonesia’s incarceration rate is among the world’s lowest at 100 people per 100,000 population, but the country ranks 8th in highest prison population total among the 223 countries and territories in the world collated in the WPB database.Many blame Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons on the judicial system, the existing KUHP and the punitive attitude of the judiciary, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, particularly when it comes to drug crimes.Read also: Dian Sasmita: Listening to troubled juveniles on the road to healing“In the Narcotics Law, there are alternative [sentences] such as rehabilitation,” Jentera’s Miko said, referring to the different sentencing options available depending on the criminal charge. “But the imposition of these charges pale in comparison to those punishable by imprisonment.”“There is a tendency among the judiciary to hand down prison sentences despite the availability of alternative forms of punishment, such as [rehabilitation] for [drug crimes],” he noted.The 2009 Narcotics Law permits judges to sentence drug users and victims of drug abuse to rehabilitation rather than imprisonment, but judges often refrain from imposing the alternative sentencing scheme.  Meanwhile, activists say that police and prosecutors often mistakenly classify drug addicts as drug dealers or traffickers.In other indications of the country’s failed correctional system, Indonesia has seen numerous jailbreaks, cases of drug rings operated from behind bars, illegal excursions and lavish facilities granted to inmates, as well as radicalization in prisons.As part of the codification of criminal law, the ICJR’s Genoveva urged the government to issue implementing regulations to ensure that the judiciary and law enforcement applied non-penal approaches like probation for certain cases.”In a nutshell, we need total reform [that involves] careful and comprehensive calculations,” said Miko.Topics : The data also showed that the nation’s correctional facilities report an average occupancy of 104 percent.Chronic overcrowding in the national prison system, combined with poor management and a shortage of wardens, has led to frequent prison riots. The most notorious among these occurred in 2013 at Tanjung Gusta prison in Medan, North Sumatra, and in 2018 at the Kelapa Dua Mobile Brigade headquarters (Mako Brimob) detention center in Depok, West Java. The two deadly incidents prompted the government to reform the prison system, yet overcrowding has persisted.last_img read more


Pentagon surplus handouts stoke the militarization of US police

first_imgSmall-town police armed for war As soon as protests began in Minneapolis, the city’s troubled police department rolled out armored vehicles appearing more suited to Middle East battlefields.Other large cities have them too, but also small towns.In 2013 police in Flathead County, Montana, which has 90,000 residents nestled near the scenic Glacier National Park, received a landmine-resistant armored vehicle, one year after taking delivery of a military transport. When US police flooded the streets around the country to confront protesters two weeks ago, for many it appeared like the army had deployed, with camouflage uniforms and combat gear, heavily armored anti-mine vehicles, and high-powered assault weapons. That’s not by accident. For years the US Defense Department has been handing its surplus equipment over for free to police departments — and the departments, large and small, have revelled in it.Critics say it has been part of the overall militarization of the police, and helped fuel mass nationwide demonstrations against police abuse and deadly tactics that began after the May 25 killing of a handcuffed African American, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer. The 10-person (two only part-time) police department in Ada, Oklahoma, population 16,000, got their mine-resistant armored car in July 2019, after stockpiling 34 M-16 assault rifles over the years.  In a country where many people have their own guns and where schools have suffered mass shootings, even local education districts are taking advantage of the Pentagon’s handouts.The 47 primary and secondary schools of the Bay District in Panama City, Florida acquired no less than 27 assault rifles and two mine-resistant armored vehicles in 2012 and 2013.Trump restarted giveaway The “1033” Pentagon surplus program has existed for years. Since 1997, the US military has distributed used and new equipment ranging from handguns to helicopters to armored vehicles, worth around $8.6 billion, to more than 8,000 federal, tribal and local police forces, according to the US Congress. In 2015 President Barack Obama severely limited the program, but his successor Donald Trump restored it in 2017.That year alone, some 500 million pieces of military equipment were transferred to the country’s police services under the 1033 program.But the recent anti-police protests have recharged efforts to stop it.This week around 200 lawmakers in Congress, mostly Democrats, sponsored a bill, the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”, to again reel in the program.The bill, in the House of Representatives, would strictly limit the transfer of guns, ammunition, grenades, explosives, certain kinds of vehicles, and drones and other aircraft designed for the battlefield.A parallel bill is being prepared in the Senate, pushed by Democrat Brian Schatz, who has fought against over-arming the police for years.”It is clear that many police departments are being outfitted as if they are going to war, and it is not working in terms of maintaining the peace,” Schatz told The New York Times. “Just because the Department of Defense has excess weaponry doesn’t mean it will be put to good use.”Schatz and Republican Senator Rand Paul attempted to push through a similar law in 2014, after the first publication of details of the 1033 program, amid the riots over police brutality against African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests and riots that broke out over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown were met by police officers carrying assault rifles and driving armored cars they got from the Pentagon. Topics :last_img read more


Van Gaal faced with difficult task

first_img United landed in Manchester on Tuesday after completing a near-perfect pre-season tour of the United States. Despite only assuming his position just two days before leaving for the US, Van Gaal racked up victories over the Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool. “I won’t come with the axe – it’s not like that,” Van Gaal said. “We have to be honest. We have to give advice to the players now at this moment and not at the end of August. Then we can’t change any more and they don’t have a choice. “Of course it’s difficult to say something after two weeks but I think you have to say something.” United fans did not have to wait long to see Van Gaal’s no-nonsense approach. In his first press conference in LA two-and-a-half weeks ago, he criticised United for sanctioning a five-match tour that saw the squad clock up 13,500 air miles. The United boss then criticised £27million signing Luke Shaw for turning up to pre-season out of shape. And in training sessions he openly criticised his players if he thought they were not up to scratch. Van Gaal had some stern words for Wayne Rooney on a couple of occasions, but the England striker has no qualms with the Dutchman’s hard-line approach. “He is a tough but fair manager,” Rooney said. The former Everton striker thinks the new coach has made a big impact at the club. “He has been great,” Rooney added. “Since he has come in he has given us all a different way of looking at football, so it’s been great for us and hopefully that will continue.” Van Gaal has implemented the same 3-4-2-1 formation he used with Holland in the latter stages of the World Cup. That came as something of a surprise given that United only have three senior centre-halves b ut Rooney, who is used to playing in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system, thinks the new formation is ideal. “It has suited the whole team,” said the 28-year-old, who scored five goals in America. “The manager came in and looked at the players we have and he felt it was best for our team. And obviously the results have proven it.” United’s fifth and final win of pre-season came in the early hours of Tuesday morning when they beat Liverpool 3-1 in Miami to lift the International Champions Cup. Winning the eight-team competition is not the highlight of Van Gaal’s career, nor Rooney’s, but the striker thinks United’s 100 per cent record in pre-season bodes well for the season ahead. “We wanted to win games and play well and we feel we have done that here,” Rooney added. “We’ve won a trophy and we did it by beating Liverpool, which is always nice. “It’s been a good few weeks. We are happy with the work we have done here so we feel we can go home and play well when the season starts.” United confirmed on Tuesday that a deal had been finalised with F K Vojvodina for the transfer of 17-year-old goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic. The 6ft 7in stopper will spend the coming season on loan at the Serbian club before moving to Old Trafford next summer. Press Association Louis van Gaal admits it will not be easy to sign the players he thinks are needed to improve Manchester United. Almost everything went to plan, but the United boss is still not totally content with his squad. The Dutchman has admitted he wants to sign new defenders before the season starts, but he concedes landing his targets will prove hard. “Manchester United shall buy players when we can improve our selection,” the United manager said. “And that is a lot more difficult than you think.” Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen and Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels remain Van Gaal’s top targets, although signing the latter is proving hard because the German club have already lost one star this summer in Robert Lewandowski, who joined bitter rivals Bayern Munich. Another priority for Van Gaal is cutting loose the players he deems surplus to requirements. Those who are surely in the most danger include Javier Hernandez, Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Marouane Fellaini and Anderson. Van Gaal will not enjoy telling his unwanted players they have no future at the club, but he will not shirk away from making the changes he feels are necessary either. last_img read more


Govt backpedals on VAT reduction promise

first_imgGovernment appears to be dragging its heels on its long-delayed manifesto promise to significantly reduce the rate of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on consumer items – within 100 days of taking office.Finance Minister Winston Jordan, during a press conference on Monday, posited that the Administration had practically done all that was possible in relation to alleviating the burden of VAT and any more changes would require extensive consultations and possible repercussions.Jordan pointed out that Government has already implemented an extension to the zero-rated VAT items in both Budget 2015 and Budget 2016.“There is virtually nothing more left to reduce on,” the Minister declared.Further justifying the Government’s decision to not keep its campaign promise, Jordan also insisted that the Private Sector Commission (PSC) advised against VAT reduction during the budget consultations.The Finance Minister conceded, however, that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition did indeed promise a significant reduction in the VAT rate, but indicated that there was a slim likelihood of this occurring without any consequences.“This is a commitment that we intend to uphold, but it’s a commitment that we want to be sure when we do it, we won’t have to hastily pull it back … We cannot reduce VAT on existing base, we have to broaden the base to recoup revenues that will be lost…We want to do it in a careful manner so that when we do it, we won’t have to go back and increase it or something,” he explained, though this was never disclosed on the campaign trail.Jordan highlighted that there were various options for reducing VAT, one being a charge on consumer items like electricity and water as a trade-off for an across-the-board reduction.“What we would want to do is have the widest possible consultations ,because some of the options that you have is putting the VAT on some things that could cause trouble and then you will hear, you know, I said it the last time that you have to bring into the mix, things like water that doesn’t attract VAT at the moment, electricity that doesn’t attract VAT at the moment…If you remember in Trinidad and Tobago, when they reduced the rate, they broadened the base …They removed all the exemptions, so even baby food attracted VAT…We have to be prepared for what is doable and what may not be doable,” he stated.Nonetheless, he assured that Cabinet was discussing the matter and any changes to the VAT system were likely to come on stream in 2017.Providing assistance to Guyana in this regard is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to the Finance Minister, a mission will be dispatched to Guyana to conduct an assessment of the VAT structure in the country and make recommendations on how to proceed to implement changes.The Tax Reform Committee was established by Government to conduct a similar assessment, but, according to Jordan, the members probably did not perform an adequate task.Nonetheless, he lauded the work done by the Committee and noted that the other recommendations made were before Cabinet for discussions.Finance Minister Winston Jordanlast_img read more