09/08/2021, 12.49
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Tangerang, fire in maximum security prison: 41 inmates dead, 81 injured

by Mathias Hariyadi

At least eight people have suffered serious burns and are in danger of dying. The fire was caused by a short circuit in section C. Experts point the finger at prison overcrowding: alternative sentences are needed. For the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights it is an "unexpected disaster". 

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - At least 41 people have died and 81 have been injured, some of them seriously due to burns, the still provisional toll of a serious fire that broke out last night in the maximum security prison of Tangerang, a town in the province of Banten. Jakarta Police Chief Fadil Imran confirmed that "at least eight detainees suffered very serious injuries", while the others suffered "moderate" damage and their lives are not in danger. Police spokesman Yusri Yunus adds that, behind the incident, there was a short circuit in the electrical system, which gave rise to the devastating fire (see photo). 

Rika Aprianto, spokeswoman for the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, says that the fire started in section C of the prison at 1.50 am (local time); firefighting teams were able to extinguish the flames around 4 am. The prison, in the past several times at the center of complaints for overcrowding, houses within it 2,072 inmates, 122 of which in section C, the scene of the incident. 

There are two foreigners among the victims, a Portuguese and a South African citizen. The authorities have set up a crisis center near the prison in order to meet the needs of relatives and facilitate identification of the victims. In the meantime, controversy is mounting over the actual capacity of the facility, which has long been reported to have problems of overcrowding, as pointed out by the Indonesian Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR). 

Maidina Rahmawati, Icjr researcher, refers that in August the prison of Tangerang housed at least 2,087 inmates, a number well above the maximum capacity of 600. "This is - she writes - 245% more than the actual possibilities". The expert points the finger at the entire judicial system that uses prison as the only deterrent "solution" against those who violate the law by fueling overcrowding, while the practice of probation to social services should be extended. 

Among the crimes that contribute to the saturation of the prison population are drug trafficking and those related to drug use of any kind. Instead, Indonesia's Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly speaks of an "unexpected disaster." "My thoughts and prayers - he said in an official statement released by the ministry - go to the relatives of the detainees who lost their lives. 

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