SDGs : A Clarion Call to Action in Correctional Facilities – By Ahmed Hassan

The health condition of inmates in correctional centers is indeed a complex issue in need of utmost attention especially when the poor condition of correctional facilities in most transitional economies is taken into consideration...


The Sustainable Development Goals are the very blueprints developed after the Millennium Development Goals to entrench a viable structure that guarantees the achievement of a better and more sustainable future for humanity.

The goals are developed to address the global challenges facing the world today especially as it affects undeserved populations including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, quality education and healthcare which is the focal point of concern in this piece.

The 17 Goals are all interwoven and in order to leave no one out of touch, it is imperative that programs emerging from the goals are developed in an all encompassing manner, those people in correctional centers not to be exempted from the more general context of the focus.

The health condition of inmates in correctional centers is indeed a complex issue in need of utmost attention especially when the poor condition of correctional facilities in most transitional economies is taken into consideration. Correctional facilities in Nigeria are typical of these shortfalls.

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With the termination of the MDGs and the subsequent introduction of the SDGs for a while now, the global call for “Health for All” is without a doubt far from attainment especially in countries like Nigeria. This grows out of the inability to provide quality and equitable access to healthcare services where they are mostly needed especially in closed systems like the correctional facilities.

Globally, the correctional facility population has been in constant fluctuation. As at late 2019, the Penal Reform International puts the global population at over 11million, out of which a total of 73, 314 were in Nigeria. Over the years, studies by (Agungbiade, 2010, WHO, 2010, 2012, Usman M., 2016, Ahmad, H., 2017) have demonstrated that many illnesses and long term conditions are over represented in Nigerian correctional facilities, showing that the inhabitants of these facilities faces a myriad of health challenges especially around HIV/AIDS, STI’s due largely to the prevalence of “sexual deviance”, though undocumented and highly under reported, tuberculosis, malaria and others. It is on this ground that it is imperative to direct attention to these places.

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Further to above, a survey of the Nigerian Correctional Facilities by Amnesty International (2010, 2015 & 2017) revealed the deplorable condition of the centers and the health services available.

They revealed the extent to which the inmates’ rights are floured due to poor healthcare conditions among other challenges. This trend was also reported by the Prisoners Right and Welfare Action (PRAWA) in 2017.

Several international standards have defined the nature and quality of healthcare that should be provided to the inmates in correctional centers. It is clearly stated in the Nelson Mandela Rules 2015, formerly the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Offenders, “prisoners, like the ordinary and free citizens have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health equivalent to that provided in the wider community”. Implicit in this is that, prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation. Emphatically, when a state deprive people of their liberty, it takes on a responsibility not simply to provide healthcare but to also establish conditions that promote their well-being.

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Given the digest above and the realities of healthcare delivery in our correctional facilities, there is the need to call on all stakeholders in the implementation of the SDGs particularly on Goals 3, 10 and 17 to direct attention to correctional facilities by allocating available resources as a way of complimenting governmental provisions to address the challenges therein. In achieving this, the need for a sustainable partnership among policy makers, NGOs, CSOs FBOs, philanthropists and donor agencies cannot be relegated.

Ahmad Hassan Ahmad,
Department of Sociology,
Federal University, Kashere,
Gombe State, North-East Nigeria.

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