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Church leaders decry drug trade in Indonesian jails

Anti-narcotics chief says half of country's illicit drug trade controlled by inmates

Church leaders decry drug trade in Indonesian jails

Anti-riot police prepare to enter a prison in Pekanbaru, Riau province, in this May 5 photo. About 200 inmates broke out of an overcrowded prison in western Indonesia on May 5, rushing out of the jail after they were let out of their cells to pray, officials said. (Photo by Wahyudi/AFP)

The Indonesian Church has called for a complete overhaul of the prison system after the country's National Narcotics Agency chief said the illegal narcotics trade is rife in the country's jails.

Around 50 percent of Indonesia's narcotics trade is controlled and managed from prisons by drug inmates, said Budi Waseso the agency's head on June 15.

"About 70 percent of the inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses," said Waseso.

Catholic Church leaders expressed shock at the revelations

"Prisons are drug nests, instead of places of correction," Father Paulus Chistian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral Care for Migrant People, told ucanews.com, on June 21.

He said lax prison management has provided an opportunity for inmates to continue the distribution of illegal drugs.

The head of Indonesia's correctional department, I Wayan Kusmiantha Dusak, acknowledged the problem, saying the prison system is overstretched and plagued by a lack of facilities and overcrowding.

"Many prisons face a severe guard shortage. In Indonesia one officer must guard 50 prisoners," he said.

According to Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly Indonesia's prison population stood at about 214,600 as of March this year.

They are crammed into 447 prisons that are only supposed to hold about 118,000 inmates and are guarded by 14,600 prison officers, he said.

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Father Siswantoko said it is clear that the government needs to completely overhaul the prison system and make sure inmate activities are monitored more closely.

Anton Medan, a former prisoner, agreed that overcrowding had exacerbated the drug problem in jails.

"Prison officers know what's going on, they just don't have the manpower to do anything about it," he told ucanews.com.

He called on government to improve prison facilities and recruit more officers.

"I have talked about this to the director-general of penitentiaries, and even the Law and Human Rights Ministry," he said.

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