Emergency Welfare Intervention for Prison Inmates

The world is currently battling the Corona Virus Pandemic. COVID-19 is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms show up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus. The symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, Diarrhea and Headache. In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death. Also, some patients may not show any such symptoms. Such patients may just be carriers of the virus, and can spread it to others. Diagnosis with only a physical examination may be difficult because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold.

Doubtless the covid19 season is a tough season for everyone. This is even more so for people in confined places like the Nigerian Correctional Facilities where the movement and social distancing is very limited because of space. This is why as is our mandate to reach out to inmates, on 11th May, Hope Behind Bars Africa Initiative with support from LEAP Africa, Citi bank and Dow Chemicals through the COVID19 Emergency Prison Fund took interventions to the prisons.

Our core message centres around protection and prevention of spread through prison decongestion as a means to #zerocovid19inprison. We also sensitised on social distancing, use of face masks, thorough hand washing and a proper hygiene system. We interacted with the prison officers and provided pictorial IEC materials donated by Youth rise Nigeria to enable them properly guide the inmates.

With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the number of usual supports enjoyed by this prisons has greatly dwindled. We therefore supported inmates with palliatives which includes 5 bags of 50kg rice, -2 bags of garri, 1 bag of beans, 3 gallons of red oil, 2 bags of salt (50 pieces each), Half bag of sugar, 1 bag of Kulikuli, 1 and half carton of Milo,1 and half cartoon of Milk 1 cartoon of Maggi, 20 pieces of Minimie Chin Chin, 5 cartons of digestive biscuit, 10 cartoons of Viva detergent, 5 cartons of bathing soap, 12 Mosquito nets, 20 bathing buckets, 20 packs of toilet rolls, 2 and half packs of Sanitary pads, 1 cartoon of Dettol disinfectant, 36 pieces of Vaseline,  3 hand washing drums, 20 Hand sanitizers for officers, 20 face mask for officers to all 228  inmates  and officers of Old Keffi Correctional Facility.

Call For Application

Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative in partnership with Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide invites suitably qualified candidates to apply for its 1st Short Course on Capital Representation for Law Students and Young lawyers scheduled to take place in July 2020.

Introduction

As at May 2020, 72.2% of people in correctional facilities in Nigeria are awaiting trial. Research indicates that indigent pre-trial detainees struggle to access legal representation as few attorneys specialize in criminal defense. Due to systemic failures and lack of resources innocent women and men risk been sentenced to death for offences they never committed. It is our belief that because the death penalty is an irreparable sanction, its imposition should only occur when the defendant is well-represented.

Course Overview

The course encourages its participants to approach death penalty representation strategically beginning from the first meeting with the client in prison. It includes topics that examine the steps involved in interviewing and counseling clients facing capital charges and how to elicit facts for mitigation investigation. Participants will be introduced to how issues of mental health and intellectual disability come to play in their client’s case.  Other presentations include International human rights law and how to approach UN treaty bodies, maximizing the law clinic experience to compete globally and a session that opens participants up to the possibilities in capital representation using the Malawi Capital Resentencing Project as a case study. Beyond the theoretical aspect, interested and selected participants will have the opportunity to learn empirically with the organization’s capital trial project.”

Faculty

The faculty consists of practitioners from  Cornell University Center on Death Penalty Worldwide, the alumni of its Makwanyane Institute and its human rights partners combining both an academic analysis and a practical assessment of different human rights/death penalty situation faced by law clinic students and lawyers around the world.

Eligibility Criteria

Participants need to be :

  • Law students from 300 level to 500 level who have shown interest in pro bono work or are members of a law clinic. OR young lawyers  less than 3 years post call with demonstrable interest in human rights or criminal justice.
  • Be resident in Abuja, Nigeria.                

 *Female students and lawyers are strongly encouraged to apply.

RECENT NEWS

WE SECURE THE RELEASE OF 5 INDIGENT AWAITING TRIAL INMATES!

On the 27th of April, 2020 we secured the release of 5 indigent young men who were inmates of Oko correctional Facility, Benin-city, Edo state. This comes under our Access to Justice Program and specifically Zero COVID 19 in prison decongestion project.

All 5 men had spent more time awaiting trial than the time they would have spent had they been convicted for the various crimes for which they were charged.

For Emmanuel Adan (pseudonym), the main offence he was charged with under S.428 of the criminal code law of Edo carried a fine of N40 but he had spent 5 months in prison already. The other 4 were arrested for wandering and breach of peace since February. An offence which carries a fine of 1 month imprisonment with no option of fine. One of them, had come from Ebonyi to visit a relative when he was arrested.

We wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Edo state Hon. Justice Esther Edigin informing her about 8 of our cases prior to the decongestion exercise and during the exercise, our counsel Emmanuel Okorie who had been representing the defendants advocated for their release. Out of the 8 cases we submitted, 5 were released. This is addition to 8 other inmates released by the CJ. The CJ expressed her appreciation and commended us for partnering with the state to make the decongestion exercise smooth.

We supported the inmates with funds for their logistics and
immence plans have begun for their reintergration back to the society.

Over time, public health emergencies such as the corona virus outbreak poses huge socio-economic burden on individuals, families and nations. Evidence shows that vulnerable populations especially people in shielded environments such as correctional facilities are disproportionately affected in multiple ways.

This is the case for correctional facilities in Nigeria, a country with 70% of its prison population awaiting trial with little or non existent healthcare systems behind bars, congested cells and inmates living in unsanitary conditions.

As an organisation, we are advocating for the decongestion of Nigeria’s custodial centres  as a major step to fighting COVID 19 in prison. In addition, we launched the a COVID 19  ‘Emergency Welfare intervention for Prison Inmates’  This is to supplement the efforts of the government in catering for the prison population. This is of utmost importance at this moment considering that the religious organisations and NGOS who otherwise support the efforts of the government have been banned from prison visits.

We secured approval from the Comptroller of Prisons, Nasarawa state Command CP Felix to pilot the first phase of this project at the Keffi Custodial centre.

We call on the members of the public and organizations to join us as we take relief items to this very vulnerable population.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-13 at 1.43.52 PM(2)

Hope behind Bars Africa organizes knowledge sharing session On Death Penalty with Law Clinic Students

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In July 2019, our Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Funke Adeoye, joined 14 other Capital Defense lawyers in common law countries in Africa to be trained by world class capital defense attorneys, practitioners, mental health experts etc on ] best practices in representing  clients  facing the death penalty. The training was organised by Cornell University’s Center on Death Penalty Worldwide’s Makwanyane Institute, an institute named after the celebrated case of S v Makwanyane where capital punishment was abolished in South Africa.

As part of our Death Penalty project at Hope Behind Bars Africa, we organised our first knowledge sharing session for law clinic students of University of Abuja law school.

The aim of the training was to create awareness and introduce issues around death penalty to aspiring advocates and capital defenders as well as to create a forum for further engagement on the topic.

The time spent with the students was engaging and interactive and we look forward to more opportunities to create awareness on this global issue.

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nhrc

Hope Behind Bars Africa Secures the Support of the National Human Rights Commission

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning”
Bill Gates

Today, a delegation of Hope Behind bars Africa led by the Executive Director, Funke Adeoye paid a working visit to the National Human Rights Commission at its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Commision, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, received us alongside Mr. Iheme Richmond, Assistant Director (Investigation and Montitoring) who also  leads the team at the Commission on  Police, Prisons and Other Regulatory Bodies. Also in attendance from Hope Behind Bars Africa were Osarieme Omoruyi, Esher Akhigbe, Nkechi Dim, and Emmanuel Agabi.

After we shared our impact story with him, the Executive Secretary Mr. Tony Ojukwu, expressed his excitement at the sight of young people working passionately on human rights and access to justice issues . He stated that the commission is willing to provide support to Hope behind Bars Africa in all ways possible. He also espoused the need for us to enlarge our capacity for greater impact.

He further stated specific prison related  projects that the commission had carried out with the hope of continuity and urged us to keep up the good work as we sealed the support  of the Commission towards ensuring that Human Rights is entrenched across correctional facilities in  Nigeria, one custodial centre at a time.

For us at the organisation, we believe partnerships are necessary to achieving our goals in line with Sustainable Development Goal 17 which is Partnership for the SDGs and we look forward to sharing ways in which this first visit to the commission would result in us making more impact to our beneficiaries and to the society at large.

Everybody is born free and equal.

30 DAYS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN

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“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” 

Nelson Mandela

Hi guys,

Many people have reached out to us asking how they can be part of the great work we are doing albeit remotely.

Today we  introduce an opportunity for everyone to be part of the work we do through the 30 days of hope campaign which  raises awareness about the plight of people living behind bars across various correctional facilities in Nigeria. We would also use this period to inform the public about  relevant innovations in the newly enacted Corrections Act 2019.

To participate, share with us a short story about a time when you visited a correctional facility in  Nigeria or your perception  about correctional facilities in Nigeria generally.

Send your story with your name and picture to letstalk@hopebehindbarsafrica.org or via whatsapp to Yemisi-08160018800.

Together we will shine the light in the darkest places.

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