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COMPASSIONATE RELEASE OF CHRONICALLY AND TERMINALLY ILL INMATES AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR NIGERIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION
This study examines the policy and practice of compassionate release of terminally ill prisoners and its implications for Nigerian criminal justice administration. Qualitative methodology using structured interview was adopted to elicit data from key informants and content analysis was used in data analysis. The study revealed that the health status of inmates and health care delivery in prison is poor. This situation is exacerbated by poor condition of detention, poor provision of drugs and personnel, and inadequate funding. The study revealed that compassionate release for terminally sick inmate is not common in Nigeria but other forms of release programs exist; such as pardon, prerogative of mercy and custody release for inmates awaiting trials. The study found that compassionate release of terminally sick inmates was justified on humanitarian concern; Nigeria prisons not capable to provide palliative care for end of life eventualities and further incarceration of terminally sick inmates defeats the goal of imprisonment as such prisoners pose no threat to the society and are incapable to function effectively in prison rehabilitation and reformation programs. Furthermore, the study found that compassionate release is relevant for Nigeria Criminal Justice System in two contexts, it saves cost and resources and addresses overcrowding of the prison. This study concludes that compassionate release of terminally sick inmates is relevant to Nigeria Criminal Justice System because if effectively managed, compassionate release program would result in cost savings for the Prison, as well as assist the Prison in managing its continually growing inmate population and the resulting capacity challenges it is facing. Furthermore, such a program would likely have a relatively low rate of recidivism.
Key words: Compassionate release; terminally ill; Prison; Criminal justice administration; Nigeria; Imprisonment; Incarceration.