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).

This includes an analysis of potentially relevant factors disaggregated along the stages of the criminal justice chain. The study looks at factors related to incentives, conduct, capabilities and resources that exacerbate the problem of pre-trial detention in Indonesia.

The framework of analysis addresses different stages of the criminal justice chain, from police arrest, investigation and detention at the police cell, through to the prosecution stage and life at that detention centre or pre-trial cell in prison where detainees await trial. Information and statistics from the Corrections Database System (SDP), a new system implemented in 2011 through the Directorate General of Corrections, supported the analysis. At each stage the analysis identifies blockages that are related to the particular combination of the wider structural socio-political context, the existing rules of the game (both formal and informal) relating to the criminal justice and corrections system, and the incentive and interest structures and balance of power between relevant actors and stakeholders within that system.

Key actors include the detainees and their families, different law-enforcement personnel, correctional staff, legal counsel and adjudication actors whose engagement and conduct have consequences for the conditions and duration of pre-trial detention.

This analysis enables a more accurate identification of potential entry points for support which could aim at reducing the incidence of pre-trial detention at the different stages of the justice chain. The report helps to pinpoint where actual problems are situated, and therefore help to determine where support can be most effectively targeted.

Problem-focused political economy analysis has in recent years become an analytical approach in development literature that seeks to support more effective and relevant engagement by international and policy actors through understanding the concrete features of the problem at hand. But its practical application remains a challenge. Using a more focused framework that targets the details of the different components of the justice chain as they feature in the Indonesian context allows for a more granular understanding of the specific institutions, incentives and relationships that feature at the different stages of the process, and which may be the root of the problem. This study aims to reveal concrete opportunities for support to change adapted to specific political economy conditions and context.

The study focuses primarily on the political economy of the ‘pre-adjudication’ stage – i.e. arrest and detention in the police cell and the conditions in the detention centres and prisons while detainees await trial and sentencing. Less attention is paid to the workings of the court system in the criminal justice procedure, although a follow-up study could fruitfully explore these.