Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has urged the government to reassess the Juvenile Justice System Law as the vast majority of underage offenders are still subject to imprisonment, depriving them of their basic rights.
A recent ICJR study found that 93.75 percent of 304 underage offenders served prison sentences throughout 2018 due to the law. Furthermore, the study also found that the prison time of a number of youth offenders exceeded that which was handed down by the court.
ICJR researcher Genoveva Alicia Maya said in a statement issued on Thursday that the majority of underage offenders were not given a fair trial, nor were they provided with a legal representative during the investigations of their purported crimes.
Only 3.9 percent of the study's respondents were aided by an attorney in the investigation phase, according to Genoveva.
"The government must understand that putting children in correctional facilities means subjecting them to a myriad of vulnerabilities, considering the poor condition of the country's penitentiaries," she said.
Genoveva said that underage prisoners were particularly susceptible to health problems given the lack of nutritious meals and suboptimal healthcare inside correctional facilities.
A 2019 study by the ICJR on correctional facilities in Jakarta found that the quality of drinking water at juvenile rehabilitation institutes was not up to general standards.
"In commemoration of National Children's Day, the ICJR recommends that the government conduct a thorough reevaluation of the law's implementation," Genoveva said.
"Law enforcement officers must prioritize what's best for children, as well as fulfill their rights in accordance with the Constitution. Regardless of the criminal allegations thrown at them, children must always be treated as children."
Nearly 1,400 underage offenders had been serving prison terms as of June, according to Genoveva.