Level of wellness in Nigerian prisons poor — Study

Nigerian prison environment is poor and inimical to its inmates’ total wellness and reformation, a study has said.

The study was presented at the 11th annual scientific conference of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.

In the study, experts investigated the overall wellbeing of inmates in two prisons in North Central Nigeria, and found wellbeing experience was better in Bida minimum security prison by 40 to 60 per cent compared to Jos maximum security prison.

The study which took into consideration how the prison’s environment and characteristics of the inmates themselves affect their overall well being, found lack of meaningful work or activity and social support as major factors contributing to their poor wellness.

The study’s participants were male, mostly above 35 years of age and all filled a socio-demographic questionnaire and a well being measure called PERMA scale. The scale measures dimensions of wellbeing such as positive emotions, engagement, relationship, meaning and life accomplishment.

Dr Tajudeen Abiola, a consultant psychiatrist, Federal Neuropsychiatric, Hospital. Kaduna, while presenting the findings of the study done in collaboration with Dr Aisha Armiyau and Dr Ladapo Adepoju described social support as a requirement for wellness and strength to move on in life.

According to him, when this is lacking, it actually makes the person not to be healthy.

“The support they need to buffer the suffering they are going though is not available and thus cope less well,” he declared.

According to him, the environment in the Jos maximum security prison does not allow for more interactions and as such further exposes its inmates to more mental health issues.

“The study is showing that when there is no meaningful relationship, reformation cannot take place. Incarceration for long robs them of skills to live a normal life. When the person is released to go home, such cannot cope.

“Life in prison is regimented; the only thing they had learnt is how to adjust to living the life of incarceration and how to be more disconnected from others.

“Reformation is not solely about teaching them skills while they serve their jail sentence and then go back to the community. It is about helping them learn skills or asset that will help them.

“These assets help everyone, even those not in prison to live, survive and thrive in their environment. If the asset can be included in the packages for inmates, it will improve their reformative process.’’

Previous studies had put levels of wellness in Nigeria’s prison at between 40 and 50 per cent as compared to as low as 7 per cent in the general population.