The death toll from a blaze that tore through a jail has risen to 44, as authorities pledged to look at whether more inmates could receive rehabilitation for drug-related offences to ease chronic overcrowding in the prison system.
Wednesday’s fire at the penitentiary in Tangerang, on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, took place in a prison block housing more than three times the number of prisoners it was designed to contain.
Built for 38 inmates, there were 122 – mostly jailed for drug-related offences – detained at the time of the blaze, which was one of the most deadly in Indonesia in recent years.
The initial death toll was at 41, but three more prisoners who suffered severe burns died overnight in hospital, Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the prison department at the justice ministry, said yesterday.
The ministry said all the victims of the fire, which police suspected may have been caused by an electrical fault, were inmates.
The incident has triggered calls for Indonesia to reconsider its strict narcotics laws, which see a disproportionately high number of inmates imprisoned for drug-related offences, including many who are small-time users.
Visiting the site of the fire, Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD said out of 200,000 inmates detained across the country, more than half were incarcerated for drug-related crimes. — Reuters