As part of an effort to scale up mental health care in correctional centres, the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme in collaboration with the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), has commenced a review and validation workshop of the operational protocol and guidelines for managing inmates with mental Disabilities in the criminal justice system
In 2019, the federal government passed into law the Nigeria correction service Act to help improve the mental and physical welfare of inmates and many others. However, section 24 of the act which deals with the mental warfare of the inmate has not been operational hence the call from RoLAC and PRAWA for a proposed guideline to aid speedy and effective implementation.
During the workshop held in Abuja, The Assistant Controller General of Corrections, Nigeria correction service National headquarters Abuja, Dr Paul Wakama, affirmed that the proposed guidelines would aid the speedy and proper implementation of the enacted act
“These guidelines will help promote the health care of those who are mentally ill and promote their rights to justice. The Comptroller General has empowered the officers to be here and has pledged commitment to the speedy implementation via the framework that would be provided.” He noted
In his remarks, Dr Michael Osika, Consultant psychiatrist at Rivers state university said the purpose of the framework is to ensure that mental health does not affect the legal outcome of the inmates under trial.
Some of the proposed guidelines and protocols include “early identification and early intervention of mentally ill inmates within the correctional facilities, availability of mental healthcare even why under custody”
“We also want to ensure quality health care delivery for inmates because they also deserve the right,” he said
The executive director of PRAWA, Dr Uju Agomoh, said the document under review, will help transform the correctional service about how they treat persons with mental challenges and also how they relate with other agencies within the criminal justice system.
While stressing the need to fast-track the implementation of the guidelines and protocols, she urged for the immediate inauguration of all the state mental health review boards by the controller general of prisons by section 24 of the Nigeria correction service Act.
Agomoh said “There should be a capacity building for members of the state mental health review board. The ministry of health and the director of hospital services should provide a clear process that enables the same form of support to the correctional services and the federal Neuro psychiatric hospitals across the political zones of the country. “
She said Community mentored health practices need to be prioritized because a lot of people in the criminal justice system who are mentally challenged should be in the health system and not in the correctional facilities.
“Mental health challenges are not a criminal challenge so we can’t have someone who is mentally ill in our correctional facilities when they have not committed any crime” she concluded.