*NIGERIA PRISONS: NEED FOR REFORM*

By The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi.

The acceptance of a system that encourages undue delay in the trial of suspects presumed under the law to be innocent until found otherwise by a court of law, is undemocratic.
The worse is the condition of cells which many people have described as eyesore and dehumanizing. It is difficult to point a vivid picture of what is on ground, in respect of Nigerian prisons.

From the experience of many members of the public who have been in court rooms and police stations, one does not require much thinking to know that essential working tools, facilities, especially accommodation are lacking or grossly in short supply where they exist. These problems have brought to the fore a number of unpleasant consequences. Notable in this regard is the practice of remanding hardened criminals in the same cells with first offenders. It is like the saying that when a cow is masticating the cud, the calf is watching with keen interest and rapt attention. In the same vein, the first offenders could take offensive lessons knowingly or otherwise from the brigands who are full of new and old tricks in criminality. Unfortunately, by the time the unsuspecting innocent inmate is discharged, he or she has become a changed person for the worse.
Quite sadly, the family and society are to bear the brunt as the number of undesirable and anti-social elements grow in their leaps and bounds.

In more civilized and modern trends advocated by experts in criminology, psychology and jurisprudence, these abnormalities and irregularities are outdated. A solution to this is that, the prison should no longer be regarded as a place of punishment or torture chamber. In contrast, it should be planned and managed as centre for mental, moral, personnel, spiritual and psychological reformation, re-orientation and redemption of prisoners and criminals generally. Besides, prisons, more than anything else, should be refocused, re-cultured, so that in the process, good morals could be inculcated into the bad elements within the society.

Therefore, rehabilitation and re-integration programmes should be considered with relevant skills such as crafts, vocations, handicraft and elementary technology imparted on the prison inmates. The rationale is that by the time the ex-convicts get back home, they are no longer societal liabilities which they were. They will not only be useful and economically viable, but would also be seen to be so. This is the most reliable way of re-integrating them into the society. The chances are that, without good rehabilitation and skills acquired, an ex-convict may once more relapse into his or her ignoble past and rejoin his or her peers or gangs. In that case, vicious cycle will be put into motion as he is again caught and sent back to prison where he or she is labeled “jail bird”.

For prison reforms to be given a human face and meaningful approach, the periodical visits of Chief Judges to prisons during which jail deliveries are made, becomes instructive. It has to be suggested that these visits be made much more regular and purposeful.
On such occasions, consideration should be extended to more prisoners in such categories as feeble and frail aged, too sickly and capable of spreading disease, pregnant and nursing mothers etc. It is instructive to know that prolonged detention without trial or bail is itself an injustice and should be discouraged.
Also of importance in prison reform is the constitutional prerogative of mercy granted the president and state governors. Both the president and governors need to constitute committees charged with responsibility to advise them on the details, procedures and implication of this constitutional obligation. Such committees owe a sacred duty to the nation, vis-à-vis, the carriage of justice, the rule of law and the fundamental human  of citizens.

On the other hand, religious organisations also have a role to play in the spiritual welfare of our prison inmates. I challenge the men of God in Nigeria to make prison visitation one of the core objectives of their ministries. That way, righteousness and social justice will thrive in Nigeria.

Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice is the Best way to Go Raising Anti Corruption Crusaders fighting Injustices in a Violent and Immoral Society of Nigeria for a Better Nigeria come 2019.

For more information: 08038276188, 08033376734, 08038754069 & 07034463316. USA contacts: 6787487829 & 2149005848.

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