Jakarta warden reveals risks of working in overcrowded jail

JAKARTA (CNA) – As the head of security at Jakarta’s overcrowded Cipinang penitentiary, Wisnu Hani Putranto spends his days inspecting the prison way past his shift from 8am till midnight.

The 35-year-old’s biggest fear nowadays is that COVID-19 may creep into the cells.

“If someone has COVID-19, the spread of the disease will be so rapid. We could all quickly die,” he said.

All the staff and inmates are required to wear a mask within the facility, but that is not a foolproof protection against COVID-19.

The prison in East Jakarta has the capacity to hold around 900 inmates but is currently home to around 3,600 prisoners. The prison’s 300 staff members are commuting to work daily, and only a few live in a nearby flat provided by the government.

Cipinang Penitentiary Security Head Wisnu Hani Putranto briefs inmates at the Jakarta prison. PHOTO: CNA

“No one can guarantee the staff are healthy while every day, they need to interact with thousands of inmates.

“They leave their houses, use public transport or motorbikes, perhaps come into physical contact with someone along the way, and then enter the prison,” the warden said.

The prison’s severe overcrowding and the fact that capital Jakarta is the epicentre of the outbreak in Indonesia – with more than 4,500 COVID-19 cases so far – means that the fear of a possible spread of COVID-19 in the jail is real.

Cipinang prison is not the only overcrowded penitentiary in the country, as many others face the same problem. Last month, the government decided to grant early releases to some 38,000 general crimes and juvenile inmates who have served at least two-thirds of their sentence to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the country’s jails.

One cell at the Cipinang prison should ideally house five convicts but in reality, up to 20 people are living in one small room.