Mrs Emelia Oputa, the Controller, Nigerian Prisons Service, Ebonyi Command, says the Service places a high premium on skills acquisition in the reformation and rehabilitation programme of prisoners.

Oputa told  Newsmen on Wednesday in Abakaliki that skill acquisition empowered prisoners to be better and more useful citizens after serving their jail terms.

“We must realise that the essence of prison is not to punish, but to reform and rehabilitate the offenders to reintegrate them into the larger society, purged of all criminal vices,’’ she said.

The prisons chief said the skills acquisition programme, which was for both convicted inmates and those awaiting trial, but more beneficial to the former.

“Convicted inmates have a fixed time period to serve in the prisons, so their training can be streamlined and planned to fit into their sentence.

“Those of them with lesser sentence periods like one year or less, we encourage to go for skills like barbing, repairs of shoes, watches, and electronics.

“Those of them with longer sentence periods, especially the illiterate ones, we send to our school.’’

Oputa said the service also provides aftercare to inmates after successful completion of their programmes.

The prisons chief said the prisons authorities buy start-up equipment and materials for inmates to enable them to establish their own businesses on completion of their jail terms.

She, however, lamented the congested state of the Abakaliki Prisons, saying that the facility was built to accommodate 387 inmates, but now accommodated no fewer than 1000.

“We do not have enough personnel to manage such huge number of inmates, most of whom are awaiting trial,” Oputa said, urging relevant authorities to do the needful to decongest the prisons.

The controller lamented delay in trial of some inmates and appealed to the Police and the Federal Ministry of Justice to ensure that case files of inmates awaiting trial were speedily processed.

She said that this would prevent the inmates from being kept in custody without trial at the law courts for long periods.

“Our duty is to keep suspects brought to the prisons in custody and to produce them when they are needed in courts.

“The Police and the Ministry of Justice should ensure that all preliminaries needed before arraignment of suspects are done before charging them to court to avoid keeping them longer than necessary in prison without trial.

“We have inmates in this yard whose cases are slated for the High Courts in Afikpo, Ohaozara and Ivo Local Government Areas.

“We can only transfer them to Afikpo Prisons with authorisation from the Ministry of Justice.

“There are procedures; and we must stick to these procedures. We cannot just transfer them without following the laid down procedure,’’ Oputa said.

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