20 June 2014

Fundasaun Mahein (FM): Is Prison a Place of Social Reintegration?

ETLJB 20/06/2014 - Mahein’s Voice. No. 67 analyses whether or not prison is a place of social reintegration.  According to decree law No. 02/2013, Directorate of the National Services of Prison and Social Reinsertion (DNSPSR), prisons are meant to enact rule of law and provide management and a security system along with social reintegration services; with the principal mission being to strengthen the necessary mechanisms in order to apply a prison system that is considered humane, fair and secure.

Historically, prisons in Timor-Leste are full of bad practices against people.  Bad practices against people existed even before the Portuguese entered Timor-Leste, such as slaves who were meant only to serve kings.  If slaves did not perform well, they would face grave consequences and various forms of torture. Before Portugal entered Timor, the philosophy of the prison is a place to stop or detain people who make mistakes.  Prison during the colonial period, however, was practically a criminal institution itself, because the prisoners always received unjust treatment and even torture at the hands of the security guards.

During Indonesia’s occupation from 1975-1999, and the elder brother’s period of struggle between political parties attacking each other, many were arrested and detained in prison for torture.  Sympathizers and militants of political parties fell victim to this.  Bad treatment continued to be enacted by Indonesia’s military and security forces. The Indonesian authorities arrested thousands of Timorese.  They were tortured in prison and many acts of sexual violence were committed against women.

FM’s monitoring shows that prison violence has occurred after the Independence period, and there have been many cases of physical abuse of prisoners by guards while the prisoners were detained in prison. Many unpublicized incidents have taken place behind the secrecy of prison walls, such as the case of Feliz de Jesus, who was physically attacked by 3 prison guards while detained.


1. Recommend to the National Parliament Committee A to conduct supervision for the prisoners in Timor-Leste and monitor what takes place in prisons and the condition of the prisons.This oversight should aim to ensure that prisons serve a social reintegration purpose, and are not centers for torture or abuse.

2. Recommend to the Ministry of Justice through the Directorate of the National Services for Prisoner and Social Reinsertion to provide adequate training for prison guards, particularly  regarding responsibility, to ensure that prison guards do not violate prisoner’s rights. 

3. Recommend to the Ministry of Justice through the directorate of the National Services for Prisoner and Social Reinsertion to support a constructive mentality for detained prisoners during their sentence in order to transform or influence their criminal tendencies towards civic participation before they are re-integrated to their community. Source: www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/01/28/tebes-ka-prizaun-fatin-reinsersaun-sosial/

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