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The political economy of pre-trial detention: Indonesia case study

Research reports

Written by Pilar Domingo

Pre-trial detention has increasingly become recognised as an important problem in prisons, contributing to overcrowding and poor prison conditions. It can indicate how state and society treats suspects, and can indicate problems with compliance with the principles of due process, presumption of innocence, and the application of the rule of law more broadly.

This is a study of the political economy of pre-trial detention in Indonesia. It analyses the key features of pre-trial detention with a view to developing policy and reform recommendations aimed at reducing its length and ensuring that detention is used for proper purposes. The study applies an analytical framework that draws on political economy analysis tools to identify the drivers of excessive pre-trial detention (Domingo and Denney, 2013).

The authors find that at the national political level there is incipient buy-in for reform, including among the more entrenched power and interest structures that have traditionally benefitted from the old order within the criminal justice system.

The study found that the police detention and investigation stage of the criminal justice system constitutes the least promising link in the justice chain. The police remain a powerful stakeholder with political leverage, and they are likely to resist reform.

Finally, the most promising area for engagement to address pre-trial detention is in the prosecution phase of the justice chain. Once the detainee has moved to the detention centre or detention cell in prison there are more concrete opportunities to find ways of both reducing overstaying – through promoting access to legal counsel, advocacy and awareness raising among detention centre staff, detainees and their families, and working to identify where the blockages are in the justice chain – and of improving the living conditions of detainees.

Pilar Domingo, Leopold Sudaryono