DECONGESTING THE PRISONS: A STEP TOWARDS DIALOGUE AND REINTERGRATION
The prison is a reformatory center where offenders are kept under custody for a reformative purposes. In Nigeria, the prisons as a correctional institution is saddled with the mandates of safe custody, rehabilitation, reformation, and reintegration of inmates into the wider society.
However, these objectives are not being achieved to the fullest. The reasons are not far-fetched. In one of the prisons facilities in the Northeast, which is expected to house not more than 500 inmates (a prison with a bed capacity of 500), is at the moment locking almost 1300 inmates. This is worrisome in the sense that out of the total number (1300), about 1200 were awaiting trial mates (ATMs) while only 180 were convicts.
Reformatory processes in the prisons concentrate on the convicted prisoners due to the fact that they are the ones that are passing through jail terms which require attention by the authority. The awaiting trial inmates do not really have the luxury of that time to engage themselves in learning crafts and other industrial training acquisitions that are ongoing in the prison. They are taken to courts on daily bases for their trial.
To ameliorate this menace, well-meaning individuals, non-governmental organizations (national and international) are encouraged to key in for proper rehabilitation and subsequent reintegration. This is why very recently, the Bauchi state government at a legal year ceremony for 2016/2017, has reiterated the fact that, in the first and second quarter of the legal year, 78 and 215 inmates were released by the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. The committee is saddled with the responsibility of looking into the cases of awaiting trial mates with a view to decongesting the prisons.
The Advisory Committee on the prerogative of mercy had in the same spirit released and pardoned about 172 inmates, some of whose fines were paid. In the same vein, Amnesty international was also not left behind. The Human Rights group, Bauchi chapter facilitated the release of about 30 inmates in the first phase of the year 2016 alone. The list is endless. This is a right step in the right direction. Suffice it to say here that, this relentless effort in decongesting the prison is quiet debasing because the inmates recidivate (an instance where inmates come back to the prison after release). The prisons authority vehemently frowns at this misdemeanor. The rate of reentry after released poses a lot of concern to all and sundry.
This however, needs more concerted effort so as #NotAnotherNigerian faces detention in the prison. Alternative major should be explored. Alternative depute resolution (ADR) for example, is encouraged. It may reduce the problem of delay in justice dispensation in our courts as a result of traffic in law suits and investigation by the police. In essence, the criminal justice system needs some overhauling #NotAnotherNigeria suffers the menace of prison congestion vis-à-vis radicalization and violent extremism.