Increasing public safety and preventing reoffending in Indonesia through prison-based work programmes

18 December 2017 - Indonesia's 450 prison facilities currently house over 250,000 prisoners - the mere number indicating the challenge with which the prison administration is faced in ensuring their safe, secure and humane custody. In running these, the country's Directorate-General of Corrections (DGC) is presented with additional issues, such as severe overcrowding, staff shortages, and - an aspect which is often less well known among the general public - the task of preparing prisoners for their eventual social reintegration into society. This undertaking, however, is crucial, as it is rooted in the understanding that imprisonment alone is incapable of addressing the social reintegration needs of offenders, and that without educational and vocational training programmes, many prisoners fall into the cycle of re-offending upon release.

To assist countries in meeting this challenge, UNODC is working with authorities across the world to establish a more rehabilitative approach to prison management. Part of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration - a multi-year initiative funded by the State of Qatar - this builds on the organization's long-standing experience and expertise in providing technical assistance and advisory service in the field of penal reform. In particular, it draws on, and is guided by, UNODC's work and role as the guardian of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

Within this context, a national workshop on enhancing prison-based work programmes in Indonesia was jointly held by UNODC and DGC in December. Importantly, the event provided a forum to create a common understanding of the minimum conditions governing prison-based work programmes as per national law and international standards. It also offered an opportunity to take stock of good practice examples from Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asia region - including from Thailand and Malaysia - around efforts to increase prisoners' ability to earn an honest living after release.

The opening session remarks reflected the common theme that echoed throughout the three days of the workshop. Haru Tamtomo from the Indonesia Government, UNODC's Philipp Meissner, and H.E. Mr. Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Hamar, Ambassador of Qatar, all ultimately emphasized the importance of prison-based work programmes as a critical element to support the successful return of prisoners to society.

Expressing Qatar's commitment to this area of work, and reiterating his Government's support for UNODC's Global Programme, Ambassador Al-Hamar warmly welcomed the workshop as a response to the call in the 13th UN Crime Congress Doha Declaration, for enhanced efforts in the field of rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners. Around this, Mr. Meissner, UNODC's Prison Reform Focal Point, n\oted that "the core objectives of prison-based work programmes should be to maintain or increase prisoners' ability to earn an honest living, to improve their prospects for employment upon release, and to thereby contribute to reducing recidivism."

After three days of in-depth discussions, the workshop concluded with the endorsement of an outcome document. This reiterated the DGC's commitment to enhancing the number of prisoners enrolled in suitable work programmes, in full compliance with national law and the Nelson Mandela Rules, and in cooperation with the private sector and relevant civil society organizations. A further emphasis was placed on the need to amend the current regulatory framework governing prison-based work programmes, and to better market and brand prison products as 'social products', through which the consumer contributes to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners. In this regard, participants also expressed their interest in UNODC's on-going consideration of supporting national prison brands.

During the closing remarks, Collie Brown, UNODC's Country Director in Indonesia, expressed appreciation to the DGC for its partnership with UNODC, noting the "significance of prison work programmes as a core element of prison management and security." He further remarked that "without proper programming, a vacuum is left for prisoners to idle, engage in activities detrimental to prison order and security, and to remain ill-equipped for their social reintegration upon release." The Acting Director-General of the DGC, Mr. Ma'mun, meanwhile congratulated participants for their constructive discussions, and pledged his follow-up on the recommendations that came out of the workshop. Mr. Ma'mun reiterated that "efforts to enhance prison-based work programmes should be considered as an important component of our overall move towards a correctional system, including increased humanity and human rights compliance in prison settings".

In support of the Directorate-General's objectives, UNODC intends to provide material support and further advisory service to DGC and other relevant stakeholders for the initiation of a pilot prison-based work programmes in selected facilities.

Additional information:

Assessing compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules: A checklist for internal inspection mechanisms

Introductory Handbook on the Prevention of Recidivism and the Social Reintegration of Offenders

Outcome document

Roadmap for the Development of Prison-based Rehabilitation Programmes

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)