By Joe Akwarandu, Umuahia
About ninety percent of those classified as awaiting trial inmates, most of them under-aged boys who committed minor crimes like pick-pocketing, now constitute the bulk of population of Umuahia Correctional Facility.
This category of prisoners is responsible for the congestion of the facility which was originally built to accommodate only 500 persons.
Orient Weekend investigation revealed that no fewer than 2200 inmates are now held at the correctional facility, leading to fears of outbreak of communicable diseases as a result of congestion.
Though the Comptroller of the Umuahia Correctional Facility, Julius Ezeugwu could not be reached for comments after repeated visits to the facility, it was learnt that managing the situation has become a herculean task for the authority.
It was gathered that each of the initial cells meant to accommodate only 10 inmates now holds a minimum of 65 persons.
Our sources who pleaded anonymity informed the reporter that only a few of the inmates are actually convicted criminals with about eight (8) of them serving life imprisonment.
“The sad thing is that most of those here are people caught smoking Indian hemp, house breaking and other infractions. They ought to have been cautioned and released,” the source lamented.
According to the source, some of the inmates have stayed at the facility for between five and ten years without their cases disposed off by the court.
“Yes some have stayed even more than ten years. They ought to have been convicted’, he said.
Our investigation further discovered that some of the inmates are being held for their inability to raise money imposed by the court as fines for their freedom.
Another reliable source pleaded with the State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to undertake visits to Umuahia, Aba and Arochukwu Correctional Facilities to offer help through clemency to those who deserve them as a means of decongesting the prisons.