Prison decongestion: 122 children released from Borstal home in Ilorin

A total of 122 children have been released  from the Borstal Training Institute, Ilorin, Kwara State on the order of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reform and Decongestion.

The Committee led by its Chairman and former Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Hon. Justice (Dr.) Ishaq Bello (rtd), ordered the release of children during the committee visit to the Borstal Institute.

The Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration of UNODC and UNICEF  deployed a Technical Team of 10 persons to the Borstal Institute, Ilorin and had assessed a total of 225 students of the Institution.

The Technical Team  conducted on-the- spot assessment and condition of the Juveniles in the Institution and found that it was overcrowded with underage,old age and with some have health challenges.

Bello who frowned at the living condition and welfare of the children noted that the Institute was congested due to non-compliance to lay down entry qualification for admission.

During the visit, the Committee observed from the document made available by the Institute, that there were discrepancies in the admission of children to the Institute which flouted the purpose for which it was established.

He reminded that the institute was established as reformation and rehabilitation Centre to accommodate children between the ages of 16 to 21 years and not to be used as dumping ground.

The Committee found out that the Institute also housed underaged children and adult, among which are in secondary school, undergraduates and graduates. According to him, “The qualifying age of admission is 16- 21 years. Anybody above 24 years has outgrown their stay and not fit for the Institute. It is a breach of extant law establishing the Institute”.

He noted that most children were brought to the Institute by their parents on various charges such as Truancy, Theft, Drunkenness, drug addiction and also those who are beyond parental control.

Out of the children released, 2 children who performed excellently in their WAEC examinations were encouraged with education Scholarship award to Tertiary Institution by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Also, considerations for release were given to the underage, old age and those with threatening health challenges.

In her opening remarks, the Acting Director, Administration of Criminal Justice and Reform/ Secretary to the Committee, Mrs. Leticia Ayoola-Daniels said that the visit to the Institute was aimed at providing psychological support to the assessed juveniles for proper re-integration into the society when released in the near future.

She explained that the Assessment Team comprised of the staff of Federal Ministry of Justice, 2 UNODC staff from Vienna, 1 UNICEF, who were all very passionate about the assignment, assessed quite a number of children. 

According to her, the team has handed over their report to the Chairman and members of the Committee to determine those to be released. 

Mrs. Ayoola-Daniels explained that the children that are released would undergo re-unification with their families and post-monitoring for an effective reintegration which could be achieved through the support of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Kwara State, UNICEF, and other relevant Kwara State Justice Stakeholder Institutions.

She expressed appreciation for the dedication and commitment of all stakeholders towards the implementation of the juvenile Decongestion Program.
She thank UNODC and UNICEF for their great support  in  actualizing  the program. 
Earlier in her welcome address, the Controller of Corrections/ Principal, Borstal Training Institute, Mrs. Ishola Martina Ola said that the mandate of the institution is primarily to ensure safe custody of the children.
She explained that while the boys are in custody, it is expected that they are reformed, rehabilitated and eventually returned to the society as positively changed individuals who should be useful to themselves and the society.
She further explained that during the period of reformation, the children are offered the opportunities of getting trained educationally and vocationally. They are placed in the appropriate level of conventional secondary school where they are availed the opportunities to pursue their education from secondary to Tertiary institutions as well as various skill acquisition.
According to her, the Presidential Committee scope of intervention is  helpful particularly  assessment of the students and rehabilitation programmes.
Meanwhile, all  development partners and the Federal Ministry of Justice have  distributed some essential packs, mattresses, towels, antibacterial creams, educational books, writing materials and inspirational books to the boys at the Institute. 

The initiative was to encourage them to show more interest in their studies while in Borstal Training Institute.

The Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Committee and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), commenced the first phase of the Juvenile Decongestion Programme on the 29th of September, 2020 with a virtual interactive session of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN and Hon. Attorneys-General, Heads of Courts and Commissioners of Women Affairs of all 36 States of the Federation.

The second phase commenced in May 2021 with the Committee/Assessment Team visiting Remand Homes in Lagos State and Borstal Institute in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

The Committee is likely to visit other Borstal Institutes in the Country soon.