Indonesia plans to have a special prison facility for terrorists after rehabilitation programs showed up weaknesses in the present system, which has lax supervision of terrorists. They are housed together with the other inmates, some of whom end up being indoctrinated with extremist beliefs.
Senior prison official Bambang Sumardiono said on Wednesday that this and other measures were being considered to reform the prisons system in Indonesia, which has been criticized for not doing enough to stop radicalism from spreading behind bars.
Bambang, who heads the department of prevention and enforcement under the directorate-general of prisons, said prisons had recently been told to isolate terrorist convicts from each other or to separate them from regular inmates. He was one of four panelists at a talk on extremism and prisons organized by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club.
At another level, the counter-terrorism fight could get a boost when Indonesia’s Parliament passes a law, expected next month, that will allow intelligence officials to wiretap, with court approval, suspected terrorists.
A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Singapore’s Centre of Excellence for National Security earlier this year noted that terrorists housed in the same prison block were able to hold Koran sessions and watch smuggled jihad videos. Some even managed to deliver a sermon to believers outside with the help of a cellphone, which could be had for the right price.
Reports such as this have raised increasing concern that terrorists put together with common criminals in prison will turn the latter into radicals.
Even prison officials can be at risk. Another panelist, Dr Irfan Idris, the director of deradicalization at Indonesia’s National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT), said he knew of a prison guard in Palembang who had dealt with hardened ideologues and was eventually won over to their cause.
Bambang said at least three prisons — in Cipinang, Nusa Kembangan and Palu — have separate blocks for terrorist inmates.
But he admitted that the prisons department was struggling with problems such as overcrowding and a lack of prison guards experienced in handling terrorist inmates.
Critics say that luxuries such as mobile phones allow jailed terrorists to continue spreading their ideology. To deal with this, some prisons have had areas blocked from mobile phone coverage, Bambang said.
In addition, prison officials use sports, such as soccer and badminton, to engage the terrorists. Religious leaders have also been roped in to help.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to
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