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HOW CORRECTIONAL ARE OUR CORRECTIONAL CENTRES IN NIGERIA?

Crime or criminal activities cannot be overruled in our society, it is the effort put in place to mitigate it and rehabilitate offenders that makes the total difference. Therefore, a nation should put in place practices of correctional treatment as fundamental tool in achieving reformation and rehabilitation of offenders and their possible reintegration into the society.

A quote by Nelson Mandela who spent twenty-seven years in prison reads that “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”. This statement cannot be far-fetched as it is the reality in this part of the world where the highest citizens are treated as mini-gods. Nigeria is definitely scored low with the assertion above.

On 15th August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, which seeks to orient the criminal justice system toward the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. The bill renames the Nigerian Prison Service to the Nigerian Corrections Service and replaces prison time with measures like community service for minor offenses.

Correctional Centre as subjected to federal and state laws is a term that may be used to describe a jail, prison or other place of incarceration by government officials. They serve to confine and rehabilitate prisoners and may be classified as minimum, medium or maximum security facilities or contain separate divisions for such categories of prisoners. The prisoners are allowed to participate in educational and vocational programs as well as in paid industries programs or a work released program.

The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) like any other correctional institution across the globe is saddled with the responsibility of accommodating awaiting trial inmates as well as convicted inmates for the purpose of rehabilitation. The daily routine of these correctional centres or a custodial prisons is keeping inmates occupied while being under intensive scrutiny. At present, Nigeria has 74,127 inmates in 244 centres across the country with 52,226 awaiting trial. This tally was gotten from a total of 244 custodial centres in Nigeria of which 139 are main custodial centres and 85 as satellite centres. A further analysis of the figures revealed that of the total of 74,127 inmates, 1,450 are female,  21,901 convicted and 52,226 awaiting trial.

In order to answer the question, how correctional our correctional centers are, some pertinent questions has to be answered.

  • Does rehabilitation programmes exist in these correctional centers?
  • What type of rehabilitation programmes exist in these centers?
  • How long does these programmes last?
  • How successful are these programmes?
  • The impact of these trainings on inmates

Rehabilitation programmes actually exist in all correctional centers across Nigeria and there are correction officers engage in  day to day handling of prison inmates. All the correctional programmes are aimed at changing or reforming the inmates to become better citizens and to avoid recidivism after been discharged. Although these programmes are present but are not enough to serve the teeming population of inmates.

There are different rehabilitation programmes existing in these correctional facilities. These rehabilitation progrmmes includes  adult literacy, carpentry, tailoring, hairdressing, arts and crafts, welding, counseling sessions etc. These programmes last throughout the stay of respective inmates at the centre.

Rehabilitation programmes at these centers are perceived to be fairly successful. Rehabilitation programmes made positive impact in the lives of some inmates.

The impacts made by rehabilitation programmes in these centres can be said to be relative. These can be confirmed by the testimonies shared by former inmates. Some of them became better citizens after been successfully reintegrated back into the society while on the flip side, some became recidivist, thereby becoming burdens on the society.

From the answers to the questions provided above, we can say that correctional centers to an extent are corrective. However, there are major setbacks in the correctional nature of these centers.

  • Poor Funding: Funding is a major challenge that the correctional centers face in Nigeria. Nigerian government as earlier stated do not care for her lowest citizens especially prisoners and the vulnerable in the society. Proper funding is lacking in these correctional centers in the area of poorly equipped workshops which is supposed to keep the inmates engaged and transformed, poor ration, inmates are not properly fed and the basic nutrients required in every meal is absent in the food provided inmates. Poor medication. Another important area is the area of health. The health of inmates is not taken care of by these centers which adversely affects their immune system and ultimately leads to death.
  • Congestion: Congestion and it’s adverse effect is another major set back in Nigerian correctional centers. The statistics given above on the population of inmates in correctional centers all over Nigeria is appalling. The adverse effects of congestion in these centers are humongous. There was a case of a power surge in a correctional centre  in Lagos where two inmates were electrocuted and died immediately. The sad aspect of this story was that these inmates were awaiting trial inmates. Their cases haven’t been judged before their death. There is no point populating the correctional centers with awaiting trials. The percentage of awaiting trial inmates is very high compared to inmates that their cases have been judged. This requires prompt attention by the Nigerian government.
  • Homosexuality and Lesbianism: This is very common in Nigerian correctional centers as inmates become wild as the days go by.
  • Inadequate Correctional Staff: The staff in Nigerian correctional centers are inadequate compared to the population of prison inmates. The dearth of staff opens door to several vices that goes on in the correctional centers.

Recommendations

  • Religious activities in the correctional centers should be effective. The preachings of the word of God both to the Christian and Muslim inmates help to a large extent in shaping their thinking.
  • The correctional centers should provide earning schemes to inmates to enhance their effective reintegration back into the society.
  • The prison should be adequately funded to acquire state of the arts equipments to enhance effective rehabilitation of inmates.
  • Rehabilitation programmes should not be left in the hands of prison officials alone. Social workers and NGOs among others should be fully involved in rehabilitation of inmates.
  • Social workers should create awareness on the need for every convicted inmate to be involved in one rehabilitation programme or the other.

2 thoughts on “HOW CORRECTIONAL ARE OUR CORRECTIONAL CENTRES IN NIGERIA?”

  1. Oluwatoyin Olaosebikan

    Lovely write up, most of the facts stated are nothing far from the truth. Our government should help look into these situations, Cause lives of every citizen maters whether convicted, or not and should be treated with utmost regard.

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