Children Behind Bars

by Difa Kusumadewi

Based on data from July 2013, 5,730 children in Indonesia are juvenile delinquents.   Among this number, 2,233 are held in custody as detainees and 3,947 are being held as prisoners.

Compared to data from December 2012, when as many as 5,549 juvenile delinquents were reported detained, we are seeing an increase of 181 delinquent children in detention.

This increasing number of detainees has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of correctional institutions. Currently, there are only 17 facilities available to house the juvenile delinquents from all 33 provinces. Of these 17 correctional institutions, only eight were specifically built to house these younger children. The other nine facilities were originally built to accommodate adult prisoners.

With only 17 correctional institutions for juveniles for all 33 provinces, this means 16 provinces do not have juvenile prisons/jails. In these provinces the young delinquents have had to be placed in the same facilities as adults.

The data from 2012 showed that out of 5,549 young detained delinquents only 1,893 were imprisoned in juvenile prison, meaning the remaining 3,650 served their time in adult prison.   Juvenile delinquents and adult inmates should be placed in separated blocks in order to prevent violence against the youngsters.  However, the reality is many juveniles are forced to share cells with adult inmates.

Such commingling has an extremely destructive effect on the young delinquents. In many cases, the older inmates target the young delinquents.  On May 2012 a violent assault on one juvenile led to his death. Hisam Dayu Firmansyah, a 15-year-old young prisoner who was incarcerated in Tulungagung prison died from injuries sustained in an assault by 16 inmates, one of whom was as an adult inmate. The 16 offenders were prosecuted but no corrections officers were charged with any degree of negligence contributing to the young boy’s death.

At trial, it was revealed that the assault was organized and coordinated by a 19-year-old inmate named Nain Ashari, a notorious and feared inmate who was also the longest term resident.

This case indicates the poor management of correctional institutions in Indonesia.

Based on Center for Detention Studies observation, juveniles who wind up in detention often suffer from various problems and stress. These problems accumulate in three different stages:  pre-adjudication, adjudication, and post-adjudication.

In the pre-adjudication stage, the most likely problems that occur include:

1.)  The lack of effort for children in the early stage of the criminal justice process, i.e. at the time of the investigation and initial detention by police.

2.)  The absence of juvenile prison facilities was the reason for the commingling of juvenile and adult prisoners in one facility. The overcrowding and comingling of adults and children leads to assaults against juveniles by the senior inmates.

3.) There are children who were incarcerated in prison facilities during the judicial process.

4.) Children’s basic rights are not fully fulfilled.  These include the right to education, health standards, sanitary, recreation, food quality, security, etc.

In the adjudication stage, a juvenile who breaks the law often encounters the same situation, including many children with minor cases and a brief sentence. There is also no non-imprisonment option for children in the adjudication stage.

In the post-adjudication stage, the problems are similar to those which occur during the pre-adjudication and adjudication stages.  More specifically they can be described as follows:

1.) There will be commingling between juvenile and adult prisoners that may bring about violation to one’s rights, also the likely act of violation performed by adults and/or corrections officers.

2.) The densely populated blocks (overcrowding) may slow down the process of rehabilitation and reintegration to society.

3.) Basic rights are not fully fulfilled.

4.) It is hard for an individual to assimilate and reintegrate.

A juvenile who served his/her time in a correctional facility isusually discriminated against and outcast by his family and society. A juvenile delinquent who interacts with other inmates in some cases suffers from violence and post-traumatic stress after being victimized and/or assaulted in prison. This also leads many young prisoners to learn criminal acts from their senior prisoners.

If the correctional institution system doesn’t protect our juvenile prisoners, it is likely that our children who break the law will lose their future, become hardened criminals, or suffer from long-term psychological trauma.


Tempo and Center for Detention Studies

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About Difa 3 Articles
Difa Kusumadewi is a social conflict and terrorism researcher, and journalist for Dekker Center. She holds degree in Informatics Engineering from Bandung Institute of Technology in 2012 and since college days was active in social studies and social research organizations at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

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