The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 12/26/2008 11:21 AM
More than 200 prisoners walked free as Indonesia celebrated Christmas nationwide Thursday.
They were among more than 7,000 inmates, all Christians, who had their sentences reduced by the government for lengths between 15 days and two months for good behavior in observance of Christmas day.
Justice and Human Rights Ministry spokesman Akbar Adi Prabowo was quoted by Antara news agency as saying that 221 prisoners were released because following annual remissions their jail terms had ended.
Untung Sugiono, the ministry director-general for correctional affairs, symbolically awarded Christmas remissions to eligible prisoners in Jakarta on Thursday.
The ministry said around 1,700 of the prisoners who received sentence reductions were from East Nusa Tenggara province, while Maluku province had 1,600 inmates granted similar remissions.
Sentence reductions were also received by 1,500 prisoners in North Sumatra, 323 in Jakarta and 337 inmates in West Java.
In 2007, the government reduced the sentences of almost 8,000 prisoners on Christmas day, while a year earlier a total of 6,750 Christian inmates were granted remissions.
Currently, around 130,000 inmates are serving jail terms at prisons throughout the country, most of them seriously over-crowded, the justice ministry said.
Twenty-five percent are detainees while the rest are prisoners, it added.
Under the law, prisoners must demonstrate six months of good behavior in order to have their sentences reduced.
Death row prisoners and those serving life are not eligible for remissions.
The government grants sentence cuts of up to six months twice a year -- once to mark Independence Day on August 17 and another during major religious holidays, decided according to a convict's faith.