Vanguard: Don’t Starve Prison Inmates

THE Federal Government must move quickly to save about 65,000 inmates in our prisons nationwide from imminent starvation by providing adequate funds for their feeding. We find as callous and incomprehensible a situation whereby contractors who provide the rations for our prisoners have not been paid for over two years highly callous and irresponsible.

Suppliers of rations and gas to our prisons are threatening to withdraw their services over the Federal Government’s failure to pay their outstanding N6 billion debts which have accumulated since 2015. President Muhammadu Buhari should kindly heed their distress call and cause civil servants dozing at their duty posts to release the funds to avoid the worsening of the already unenviable situations that prisoners find themselves in.

Maintenance of services in all sections of the justice and criminal administration system is the duty and responsibility of the Federal Government. Already, our prisons, especially the awaiting trial cells, boast some of the most dehumanising conditions compared to other prison systems in the world.

Over the years, government has failed to keep pace with the expanding crime rates and the needs of our correctional facilities. Prisons meant to accommodate a few thousand people long before our independence are overpopulated by ever-increasing number of fresh inmates. The food rations in our prisons are usually of poor quality. Neglecting to pay those who supply the food could lead to prison riots, jail breaks and the accompanying tragic consequences.

The sobre fact of imprisonment is that no one is immune from the experience. Anyone can find himself or herself in prison. It is on record that many former and serving leaders and occupants of high public offices have spent time in prison, and more of those currently in power might find themselves there one day. Therefore, ensuring that conditions in our prisons are improved is in the overall public interest.

We consider the continued maltreatment of our prisoners by government officials as a crime against humanity because it subjects those under the lawful custody of our justice system to dehumanisation neither envisaged by our laws nor even the dictates of decency. It is the duty of the Federal Government to ensure that funds voted for the upkeep of inmates in our correctional institutions are not only released on time but spent for the intended purposes.

As always, we call on governors, judges and magistrates to increase the frequency of review of conditions of prison inmates, ensuring that as many of them as can be set free or caused to serve their sentences from home are able to do so. It will help ensure that only those who must be in prison confinement are kept there and properly catered for.

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