About 30 inmates escaped from the riot-hit Labuhan Ruku prison in the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday. The incident which occurred in Batubara, Northern Sumatra is the latest in the several cases of prison riots and jail breaks that have happened in the country.
Jail officials said that prisoners escaped scaling the almost 3 meter perimeter wall when the riot and fire broke out. According to reports, the riot began Sunday afternoon after a group of inmates who were transferred from other prisons started protesting against the overcrowding in the Labuhan Ruku prison.
The Labuhan Ruku riot and jail-break is bound to be a major embarrassment for the government and again raise questions about the security of prisons in the archipelago.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had in July, ordered evaluation of prison policies across the country following two other jail breaks that month.
On July 12, five people had died and over 100 inmates escaped during jail violence in Tanjung Gusta prison in Medan which left the premises engulfed in fire. The escapees included what the police called four "heavyweight" terrorists convicted for a 2010 bank robbery and attack on the police. Less than two weeks later, 12 prisoners broke out of Negara Baloi prison in Batam.
Underfunded and Overcrowded
With prison facilities being underfunded and overcrowded, jail authorities in Indonesia have been unable to stem the random acts of violence and rioting that has marred the country prison reputation. According to the UK-based International Centre for Prison Studies the occupancy level in the Indonesian prison system is almost 150%.
For instance, the Labuhan Ruku prison which saw violence on Sunday only has a capacity of 250 inmates, but had 874 prisoners most of them convicted in relation to narcotics. The Kerobokan prison in Bali which saw similar violence in Feb 2012 was built to accommodate 300 prisoners but was holding about 1,000.
Struggling for Solutions
For years, Indonesia has been struggling to find solutions for its prison overcrowding problem. Suggestions include exempting narcotic users from prison terms and shifting them to rehabilitation facilities.
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