THIRTEEN mentally-ill persons have been dumped in prisons by their family members, the Controller General (CG) of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Ahmed Ja’afaru, said on Thursday in Abuja.
Ja’afaru accused the families of the affected persons of getting remand orders from the court to keep their sick members in prison facilities illegally.
Addressing reporters on the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, the controller general explained that the law prohibits the use of correctional facilities for indiscriminate dumping of persons without due regard for their state of health or age.
According to him, Section 13 subsection (3) empowers a prison Superintendent to refuse to admit persons brought in with severe bodily injury or anyone who is mentally unstable or someone in an unconscious state or an underage.
He said: “We have some family members dumping insane persons in prisons. They simply procured a court order to remand the sick individuals, who should be taken to psychiatric hospitals, into prison. This new law would curb all that. Presently, we have 13 mentally-ill inmates in our prisons, especially that of Enugu.”
Jafa’aru said the impact of the new law would soon be felt in the service, adding that officers would be trained on the non-custodial aspect of the law to be implemented nationwide.
The controller general hinted that the new Act had brought succour and hope to inmates on death row.
He said any of the 2,742 condemned men and women who have spent 10 years on death row, after exploring all legal options, is eligible to have their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
Jafa’aru said: “Previously, this category of inmates live under the suspense and mental torture of death, which the appropriate authorities would neither sign nor easily commute to life imprisonment.
“We have 2,742 prisoners on death roll. Out of the number, a greater percentage of them may have finished appeals and are still waiting for the determination of the approving authority to either approve their execution or commit them to life imprisonment.
“As at September 2, the total prisoners population is 73,102. Out of this number 19,878 are convicted males while 299 are convicted females. Condemned convicted prisoners comprise 2,677 males while the females are 42, totalling 2,719.
“There are 49,173 males Awaiting Trial, while there are 1,047 female counterparts, totaling 50,216. We have sent circulars to all the controllers across the country to find out the number of prisoners that have been in the facility for 10 years and have finished their appeals. And we are compiling that. We have 13 lunatic inmates in Enugu Prison.
“Section 12 subsection 2 (c) of the NCS Act now provides that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.”
On over-crowding, Ja’afaru said appropriate mechanism for dealing with this had been provided for in the law.
The NCS chief stressed that every state Controller was mandated to notify the Chief Judge, the Attorney General, Prerogative of Mercy Committee, State Criminal Justice Committee and any other relevant body to tackle prison congestion.
“The law (subsection 8) specifically empowers the State Controller of Correctional Service, in conjunction with the officer in-charge of the facility, to reject more intake of inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre is filled to capacity,” he said.