Globally, over 9.25 million people are held in prison, with most of them as pretrial detainees in deplorable conditions, particularly in Africa. This large number of inmates has led to prison overcrowding, poor nutrition, poor health and sanitary conditions, resulting in the spread of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B&C, tuberculosis, and respiratory and skin infections, with devastating consequences on the general society, as well as to social-economic penalties on victims, their families and society.
In Nigeria for example, as at April 2011, the estimated prison population was 50,000 and 39,000 of this figure was awaiting trial. Many of these people have no legal representation and have been in detention for more than five years.
This phenomenon is exacerbated by the attitude of judges, lawyers, magistrates and prosecutors towards cases, arbitral adjournment of cases, arbitral arrest and detention of suspects by the police, corruption, and lack of good legislation to deal with the issues, among others.
This sad situation has drawn the attention of individuals, some government agencies, civil society groups and NGOs, calling for reforms in the criminal justice and prison systems.
CURE-Nigeria believes that unless urgent steps are taken to reform the criminal justice and prison systems by providing all detainees with access to legal representation, improving prison conditions, reducing the use of prisons, and embarking on police reforms, and above all, creating jobs for the teeming youth population, prison population will continue to swell, prisons will remain incubators for diseases that affect the larger society, illiteracy level will rise as children of incarcerated parents will drop out of school; while some children grow up in prison with their parents, crime rate will increase as bread-winners are put behind bars, and prisoners are released into society without any skill to cope after spending many years in detention.