THE appalling conditions in our prisons have time and again attracted widespread condemnation from both local and international human rights groups.
Much as prisons are not meant to offer comfort like hotels and holiday resorts, the conditions of our prisons which others have nicknamed as dungeons of death require a lot of interventions to make them true reformatory and correctional institutions.
Prisons are penal institutions which are established to make jailed convicts remorseful and dissuade them from committing the offence again. Our prison system, instead of being correctional institutions, is slammed for dehumanising inmates.
The dehumanising conditions in our prisons do not only haunt criminals but also innocent people who are in jail by accident. One group of such innocent victims is that of babies and children who are behind the bars simply because their mothers are in jail.
We find the arrangement of keeping children in prison with their jailed mothers unacceptable and retrogressive. It is unjust to punish children for crimes committed by their mothers.
Our prisons which are heavily congested and notoriously known for poor food and horrible sanitation conditions cannot be facilities for raising children which we regard as future leaders. Jailing innocent babies and children is tantamount to sentencing them to deprivation and ill-health.
Much as we appreciate that in our cultural settings babies and children are supposed to be raised by their mothers. But commonsense should prevail amongst us that when the mothers are jailed convicts, it is incorrect to let the children be confined in prison as inmates.
Time is ripe that the country should develop a policy on cases of women who give birth in jail. Authorities can explore various options to sort of this scandalous situation of jailing babies for crimes they have never committed.
We believe that addressing the plight of children in prison should be an urgent issue. We urge the government to embark on reforms to remedy this abnormality that is out of congruence with current acceptable correctional practice.