This article is an English translation of Arti Pidana Penjara Seumur Hidup which was written by Bernadetha Aurelia Oktavira, S.H. and was published on Friday, 20 January 2023.
This article below is a second update of the article entitled Life Sentence (Pidana Seumur Hidup) which was written by Shanti Rachmadsyah, S.H. and was first published on Thursday, 24 June 2010, and was first updated on Monday, 24 January 2022.
This article is written according to the previous Indonesian Criminal Code and Law 1/2023 on the Criminal Code, which was promulgated on 2 January 2023.
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The Definition of Life Imprisonment
In order to answer your question about life imprisonment, we will refer to the previous Criminal Code, which is still applicable at the time this article was published, as well as the new Criminal Code, Law 1/2023, which will entry into force in 2026.
Article 12 Criminal Code
Article 68 Law 1/2023
2. Imprisonment for a certain period is imposed for a maximum of 15 consecutive years or for a minimum of 1 day, unless a specific minimum is determined.
3. In the event that there is a choice between the capital punishment and life imprisonment or there is an aggravation for a crime sentenced with imprisonment for 15 years, imprisonment for a certain period may be imposed for a period of 20 (twenty) consecutive years.
4. Imprisonment for a certain period may not be imposed for more than 20 years.
From the abovementioned provisions, it can be concluded that life imprisonment is imprisonment for as long as the convict is still alive until his/her death. This provision simultaneously rejects the opinion that life imprisonment is a term of imprisonment that is served during the age of the convict at the time the verdict is handed down.
Misinterpretation of Life Imprisonment
Life imprisonment is often misinterpreted. The most common misinterpretation is to assume that life imprisonment means imprisonment in accordance with the age of the convict when the verdict is handed down.
In order to make it easier to understand the definition of life imprisonment, as an example, if a person is sentenced to life imprisonment when he/she is 21 years old, and if it is based on the opinion that what is meant by 'lifetime' is equal to the sum of the ages of the convict. Then, when the verdict is handed down, the person concerned will serve a prison sentence of 21 years. This certainly violates the provisions of Article 12 Section (4) Criminal Code and Article 68 Section (4) Law 1/2023, where the length of the sentence served by the convict exceeds the maximum limit of 20 years.
As another example, based on the same opinion, if a convict is sentenced to life imprisonment when he is 18 years old, it means that the convict is sentenced to imprisonment for 18 years. This of course will lead to confusion, namely, why didn’t the judge immediately sentence the convict to 18 years in prison, for it is still allowed under the Criminal Code?
From the description above, it can be concluded that the legal basis, as well as the logic of thinking, is that the meaning of life imprisonment is imprisonment as long as the convict is still alive, and his/her sentence will only end when he/she passes away.
These are the answers we can provide, we hope you will find them useful.
 Article 624 Law Number 1 of 2023 on the Criminal Code (“Law 1/2023”).