100s of convicts in Sulawesi voluntarily return to prison after one-week amnesty ends, but over 1,000 unaccounted for

The devastated city of Palu after the earthquake and tsunami that struck on September 28, 2018. Photo: BNPB / @Sutopo_PN / Twitter
The devastated city of Palu after the earthquake and tsunami that struck on September 28, 2018. Photo: BNPB / @Sutopo_PN / Twitter

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Central Sulawesi’s Palu and the surrounding areas on September 28, one of the infinite emergencies facing officials was what to do about the thousands of prisoners housed in detention facilities caught in the disaster zone. Many inmates fled or forced their way out of the broken facilities soon after the twin disasters struck so that they could check on their families.

The government eventually made the decision to officially give all of the convicts one-week breaks from detention, during which time they could check on their relatives, but said they had to report back to their facilities voluntarily or be hunted down as escapees.

Sunday was the final deadline for the one-week amnesty and officials are reporting that hundreds of convicts did, in fact, voluntarily return to their prisons.

The head of Palu’s detention centers, Nanang R, said that over the past few days hundreds of inmates had reported back to their prisons.

“Each of them received between 130 to 150 inmates daily who reported back themselves. Among them are those who immediately went back into detention while some of them were given extensions so that they could provide assistance to their relatives who are victims (of the disaster),” Nanang said today as quoted by Detik.

The detentions chief said most prisoners that returned were following their consciences after learning about the fate of their families. One inmate, Supriyadi, told Detik he was at peace with returning to jail after he had a chance to find out that his family was safe after the disasters.

However, the figures from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights are more ominous. During a press conference yesterday, ministry officials told reporters that 364 inmates had reported back to their prisons, of which 204 were placed back in detention. They put the number of unaccounted for inmates at 1,096 and urged them all to immediately report back in or face the legal consequences.

The latest official death toll from the twin disasters in Central Sulawesi is 1,944 while officials say about 5,000 people remain missing and are presumed dead.

If you would like to do something to help the survivors of the disasters in Central Sulawesi, here’s a list of trustworthy charities you can donate to.

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