Centre Houses 1,339 Inmates Against 387; Govt Offers Pro-bono Services

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Centre Houses 1,339 Inmates Against 387; Govt Offers Pro-bono Services

The Custodial Center in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital is currently overstretched as it houses 1,339 inmates against its capacity of 387.

The Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh disclosed this during his quarterly visit to the Custodial Center, in Abakaliki.

Speaking on efforts of Ebonyi State government to decongest the centre, Dr Odoh said the State Ministry of Justice had an Office of Public Defender that assists improvised inmates to get justice on pro-bono.

While lamenting on the nonchalant attitude of some prosecutors as the major contributor to congestion in the facility, Dr Odoh revealed that Ebonyi State government now has a law that empowers it to establish a custodial home and also handle minor offenders appropriately. He added that the initiative is aimed at decongestion, provide inmates with valuable skills and generate income for the state.

However, Dr Odoh advised that inmates to think and continuously embark on  self-reflection and spiritual renewal stressing that Governor Francis Nwifuru is committed to building a just society where access to justice would not be limited by the availability of fund.

“We created this department to provide free legal representation to inmates who cannot afford to pay their lawyers, ensuring their right to a fair trial.

“We mandated the management of the custodial centre to compile lists of inmates who do not have lawyers representing them in court.

“The State custodial center will have a Farm where inmates will be rehabilitated. This initiative will also see Minor State Offenders such as those convicted of goat theft, sent to the farm to rear goats instead of serving time in conventional prisons.

“The proceeds from the goat rearing, for instance, will be shared in a 60:20:20 ratio. Sixty percent will be saved for the prisoner and released upon completion of their sentence, 20% will be used for their upkeep, and the remaining 20% will be revenue for the government.

In appreciation of the visit, the Officer in-charge of Abakaliki Custodial Centre, Mr Benedict Nnagozie Oyoko pointed out that prolonged adjournments in court is also a contributory factor to the problem of overcrowding.