Train, equip inmates for the challenges ahead

In Nigeria, and probably elsewhere, inmates of correctional centers are often looked down upon and treated with contempt. Although many people believe that not all correctional center inmates have committed crimes requiring such restriction of their liberty, the impression on correctional center inmates remains one of disdain, contempt, and derision.

It is common knowledge that some hardened criminals adopt correctional centers as their second home and feel genuinely unfazed when penned in such centers. Yet there are those whose offenses are too minor or insignificant to incur severe punishment, such as perpetually putting them in what has been derisively called “awaiting trial.” There are people who have committed very minor offenses and who are taken to correctional centers to come out as hardened criminals. It is inhumane, for example, to throw someone who has been arrested for “two fights” in such a center for months or even years.

Worse still, there are reports of people dying while awaiting trial because they could not afford to meet the demands of judicial institutions. Under normal circumstances however, correctional centers are meant to be an institutional sanitizer where debauched minds undergo rehabilitation and are ready to integrate into society when their term expires. Such rehabilitation, in healthier climates, should not only focus on character building, but should also include the acquisition of skills as well as training in sports activities to develop their inclination towards self-reliance and, by extension, self-pride. It is common knowledge that over time, many renowned sports icons have been imprisoned and they have come out of such situations to pursue their professional careers, which means that in prison they have continued to train. until their release. A classic example of this is Diego Corrales.

After starting his career 33-0, Corrales was stopped by Floyd Mayweather in January 2001. It would be his last fight for two years. Shortly after the loss to Mayweather, Corrales (40-5, 33 KOs) was accused of abusing his pregnant wife, Maria. He agreed to a plea bargain and served 14 months behind bars. Corrales worked his way to the top of the lightweight division. He traded a pair of memorable fights with Cuban legend Joel Casamayor before fighting one of the greatest battles in sports history against Jose Luis Castillo in 2005. Denmark international Jan Mølby was a fan favorite during his 12 years as a central midfielder for Liverpool, but had to take a short break when he served a three-month prison sentence for careless driving during the 1988-89 season.

The club and its fans cornered by Molby and he later returned to the club to help Liverpool to winning streaks. These examples make it clear that a trip to correctional facilities may not be the last trip after all. There are potentially great sportsmen in the various heist facilities, just as such talent abounds on our streets. But for one or more reasons, they remained untapped and it may have cost the country dearly on international releases. It is for this reason that the efforts of the Cross River State Commissioner for Sustainable Development, Mr. Oliver Orok, to revive sports activities in the Calabar Correctional Center are commendable. Last week, Friday January 21 to be precise, Orok visited the Calabar Heist Center, established in 1890 and renowned for hosting such eminent figures as the late wise Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

His mission, he said, was to encourage inmates and assure them that they could use the opportunity to be isolated from mainstream society to rethink their character and prepare for a better life after confinement. Although journalists were not allowed to enter the center because, according to officials, the protection of detainees was paramount, Orok, who spoke after emerging from the rampart-like gate, said that he had gone to help the inmates with sports equipment. According to him, the inmates were so happy to know that a prominent figure like the state commissioner cared about their welfare and came in droves to welcome him and his team. “I feel it is my duty to contribute my quota to the welfare of inmates who have been separated from their families.

I went there to help them with sports clothes and football so they could use it to keep hope alive. “While I was there they played a game which I find very interesting and now I know that even though they are in a place like this there is so much talent among them. They have very well done and I think if some of them continue like this they will serve the country well,” he said. The Commissioner revealed that when he was in charge of the Department of Social Welfare, he ensured regular visitation to the correctional center but promised to do more to keep inmates fit by engaging them in sporting activities including football.

“I have taken on the task of ensuring that I help inmates engage in sporting activities so that they can stay fit even when they are here. I think it is important for them to realize that their physical well-being is very important and I have promised to provide some of the things they need, especially in the area of ​​football,” he said. . Although the commissioner said he also contributed cash as part of the visit, he insisted that sports activities can change the mindset of inmates as they could train in the hope of getting a club when they come out of solitary confinement. For Mr. Ettah Williams, Assistant Comptroller of Corrections in charge of non-custodial services in Cross River State, the commissioner’s visit was a welcome development.

He said it had been a long time since the correctional center had hosted a senior government official and that he saw Orok’s visit as the start of good things to come. “His visit rekindled the belief among inmates that people on the outside are still looking after them. They were so excited to play with each other.

They had their team from the different sections of the center and came out with such excitement that we feel really good. “The sportswear and the balls given by the commissioner have been a big part of motivating them and I think they will use these kits regularly. Who knows, some of them might come out and become great footballers in the future,” Williams said. On his part, inmate trainer and trainer Ene Ekeng Etim, who is the center’s sports manager, expressed his gratitude to Oliver Orok for the gesture, noting that it was something the inmates will live a long time to remember. you. “I can tell you that the idea of ​​providing shirts, balls and other kits to inmates is well appreciated.

You could hear them squealing with joy and even when they were competing with each other, you could feel the excitement in the air. It lifted their spirits and I think some of them may well become great footballers in the future,” Etim said. He revealed that as well as caring for those within the centre’s walls, he also makes sure those who have served their time are tracked and encouraged to find clubs that could help them hone their skills. in football so that they keep their minds away. of the crime. There is no doubt that if the inmates of the Calabar Correctional Center in particular, and the centers across the country in general are given the means and the resources, even within the walls of the heist centers, the country could well reap a lot of talent who can compete against other countries in international events.

The brain drain does not only occur when doctors find green pastures abroad or when professors decide to leave the country and pursue teaching careers in other countries. Even within our correctional centers the brain is getting burnt out and if the various line ministries undertake talent hunts in our correctional centers they may well find that outside the grave our correctional centers have snuffed out a lot of talent under our eyes.


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