WHO IS A PRISONER? – WHAT ARE THE RIGHT OF A PRISONER AWAITING TRIAL
According to Hornby, a prisoner is a person who is kept in a prison as a punishment. Also Section 19 of Prisons Act, 1990 defines a prisoner as any person lawfully committed to custody.
There are two types of prisoners:
- Prisoners awaiting trial
- Prisoners convicted by court of competent jurisdiction.
RIGHT OF A PRISONER AWAITING TRIAL.
- Right of life (S.33 of the 1999 constitution, Article 4 and 3 of African Charter on Human and peoples Right and Universal Declaration of Human Right; which shall for the purpose of this work henceforth be referred to as ACHPR and UDHR respectively.
- Right to dignity of human person (S.34 (a-c) of the 1999 constitution and article 5 and 1 of ACHPR and UDHR respectively.
- Right of fair hearing (S. 36 of the 1999 constitution, article 7 and 10 of ACHPR and UDHR respectively.
- Right to legal aid and facility S. 36 (6) (C) of the 1999 constitution.
- Right to an interpreter (S. 36 (e) of the 1999 constitution)
- Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. (S. 38 of the 1999 Constitution and articles 8 and 18 of ACHPR and UDHR respectively
- Right to freedom of expression (S. 39 of the 1999 constitution and articles 9 and 19 of ACHPR and UDHR.
RIGHTS OF A CONVICT OR A SERVING CONVICT.
A serving prisoner has virtually all the right of a prisoner awaiting trial in conjunction with the following:
- Right to receive visitors. (S. 42 of the prisons Act 1990)
- Right to food (S. 22 of the prisons Act).
- Right to clothing (S. 18 – 25 of the Act).
- Right to health and cleanliness (S. 28 – 32 of the Act and Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution).
- Right not to be engaged on hard labour or Sunday or on Christmas day or on Good Friday or on two Successive Sundays.
- Right against discrimination of any type. (Article 2 and Section 42 of UDHR and the 1999 Constitution respectively and section 42(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
THE 1999 CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIAAS AMENDED.
- Section 33(1) provides that, every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of count in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
- Section 34 provides that, very individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly.
- Section 38 provides that, every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to charge his religion, belief and freedom (either alone or in community with others and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, leading, practice and observance.
- Section 39 states that, every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.
- Section 34(a – C) provides:
- No person shall be subjected to inhuman or torture or degrading treatment.
- No person shall be held in slavery or servitude.
- No person shall be required to perform force or compulsory labour.
- Section 36 provides that, in the determination of is civil right and obligation, including any question or determination by or against government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
- Section 36(6)(C) states that every person who is charged with criminal offence shall be entitled to…defend himself in person or by a legal practitioner of his choice.
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligation and in any criminal charge against him.
18. Everyone has right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impact information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS.
4. Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the dignity of his person
5. Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All form of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.
7. Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises.
a. The right to appeal to competent national organ against acts of violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force.
b. Right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal.
c. right to defence, including right to be defended by a counsel of his choice.
d. right to be tried within reasonable time by an impartial court or tribunal.
8. Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may subject to law and order be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.
9. Every individual shall have the right to receive information. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the Law.
THE PRISONS ACT.
42.: Convicted prisoners shall be allowed to receive a visitor from friends in the presence of a prison officer and to write and receive a letter at the discretion of the superintendent.
22: An inmate shall be properly and adequately feed.
28 – 32: Collectively makes provision for the medical care of prisoners. This includes fee medical treatment for any individual ill inmate
THE ETHICS OF PRISONERS.
- A prisoner is not allowed to possess or be in possession of any sharp object such as razors blades, knives etc capable of causing injury.
- An inmate is prohibited from possessing or consuming any drug such as cigarette, narcotics, cocaine, Indian hem (Aconitum variegatum) etc.
- A prisoner is prohibited from receiving visitors except in the presence of a prison officer.
- Similarly, they are not to send or receive letters except at the discretion of their superintendent
- A prisoner is prohibited intoto from receiving anything, money inclusive from anybody, parent visitor inclusive, unless through a prison officer.
THE ETHICS OF VISITORS.
Visitor to prison and prisoners are prohibited subject to some exceptions from any of the following act(s):
- Not to give anything to the visitor except through an officer of the prison service
- Not to assist or cause or facilitate the escape of a prisoner.
- Not to discriminate against the inmates.
- Not to make or receive calls inside the prison premises.
- Not to give as aid, drugs or sharp object to the prisoners; among numerous other prohibited acts.