President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the Nigerian Correctional Services Bill into law. The Act, which was signed on 14th August 2019, repeals the Prison Act, Cap P29, Laws of the Federation, 2004 and enacts a Nigerian Correctional Services Act to address issues that were not covered under the repealed Act and improve on prison administration. A Controller-General with the assistance of at least 8 Deputy Controllers-General and other subordinates will administer the Correctional Services.
The Correctional Service is divided into two parts under the Act. That is, a custodial service, which administers or supervises individuals or persons remanded in custody and a non-custodial service that oversees non-custodial measures like community service, probation, parole and similar procedures. Some of the objectives of the new Act include ensuring compliance with international human rights standards, providing a platform for the implementation of non-custodial measures and promoting the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
The Act, which is a step forward from the repealed Prisons Act, contains several progressive provisions as it moves from the perception of prisons being a centre for retribution to a “correctional” facility with a focus on reformation, rehabilitation, reintegration and better treatment of prisoners. For instance, it makes provision for the medical, psychological, spiritual and counseling services of offenders and the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes that can improve their human capacity. It also seeks to address the high number of persons awaiting trial in Nigeria by empowering the State Controller of Correctional Service in conjunction with the Superintendent of the Correctional Service to reject more intakes if the Correctional Centre in question is filled to capacity.
Some other notable provisions under the Act include that the Correctional Services address special medical needs and nutritional needs of inmates that are pregnant, nursing mothers or babies in custody. Section 34(2) of the Act also mandates the provision of a Creche in every Custodial centre. The Act also seeks to guard against the sexual exploitation of women by providing that all female inmates undergo pregnancy tests on the first day of their admission into the Correctional Service or as soon as possible. However, pregnancy tests must not exceed 14 days from the date of their admission. It also ensures that investigations, including a DNA analysis are carried out where female inmates in custody are found to be pregnant and provides for the prosecution of the perpetrator. Additionally, young offenders are prohibited from being kept in adult custodial facilities.