REINTEGRATION: A PANACEA FOR CURBING RECIDIVISM

In recent times, there has been a concern over the problem affecting one of the most important sectors of the criminal justice in Nigeria — the Prisons. Prison congestion is, as a matter of fact, a source of concern not only to the prisons authority but the society at large. Well-meaning individuals, government and non-governmental organizations alike became a consortium in jettisoning this development. The Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, Amnesty International, and other civil society organizations are leaving no stone unturned in this herculean task.

In this light, those prison inmates(Awaiting Trial Mates/Convicts) who were eligible, in terms of conviction, nature of offence committed, sentences being served and so forth were either given soft landing (reduction of time of sentence) or outright release. However, this good gesture has, unfortunately not been reciprocated by most of the affected persons (inmates in question). Consequently, the criminal justice system records, on a daily basis, relapses into one crime or the other by these individuals. This is what it terms ‘Recidivism’, and it is a factor that contributes to the prisons congestion which many view as a social problem

A sample of inmates undergoing vetting for possible release from prison

In tandem with the prisons’ effort to nip this tendency in the bud, various state governments, well- meaning bodies and individuals have been working round the clock, especially from the first quarter of the preceding year- 2016. For example, 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 (ATMs) 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.

Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, Bauchi Chapter (Chief Judge, Bauchi State, left)

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 in the sense that the inmates recidivate. The prisons authority vehemently frowns at this unwholesome development. The rate of reentry after released poses a lot of concern to all and sundry.

WHY DO PEOPLE RECIDIVATE

Release from prison constitutes a potentially critical transition, and social support stands as one of the likely factors that may facilitate a successful passage through this transition (Glaser 1964; Maruna and Toch 2005; Visher et al. 2004). Inmates’ visitation in prison is given a considerable attention particularly for the fact that a good number of them under custody exceeds capacity the facility. At a time, a prison (Bauchi prison) for example, locks about 1200 inmates as against its capacity of 500 bed space. Visitation, as many scholars argue, reduces recidivism and hence helps in some degree in prison decongestion. Hirschi’s (1969), social bond theory, argues that strong bonds to family, friends, and community serves to constrain tendencies to commit crime (Williams D. Bales and Daniel, 2008).

One major challenge the released inmates faced is the inability to curb with the new life outside. As Sykes (1958), reported by Bales and Mears (2008), 50 years ago, “imprisonment means that the inmate is cut off from family, relatives, and friends, not in the self-isolation of the hermit or misanthrope, but in the involuntary seclusion of the outlaw” (p. 65). Ugwoke, Dauda, and Kazeem (2016), share the same view with Sampson and Laup (1990; 1993) who suggest that, positive social bonds decrease the likelihood of further crimes, while negative social bond increases the propensity to crime again and again (p.86).

Inmates’social ties must not only begins after release but even prior or when in castration (La Vigne et al. 2005). Perhaps the most obvious theoretical justification for expecting that inmate visitation should reduce recidivism stems from Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory, which argues that strong bonds to family, friends, and community serves to constrain tendencies to commit crime (Bales and Mears, 2008, p. 291). Persistently however, Life-course theorists (Sampson & Laub, 1990), whose argument is in tandem with the social bond theory, emphasis that persistence in crime[a relapse in crime and consequent imprisonment] is due to lack of social bond, and a subsequent lack of structure, routine activities, and healthy human relationships (Ugwoke, et al., 2016)

RECIDIVISM VIS-À-VIS THE INSURGENCY IN THE NORTH EAST.

It will be recall that sometime in 2010, Bauchi prison suffers an external aggression from some armed men whose violent attack paved way for the escape of quite a number of inmates. It was later learned that the masterminds of the attack were the ‘Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad’ popularly known as Boko Haram. Prior to the assault, the facility experienced an unprecedented reentry into its custody. The authority was alarmed but there was virtually little or nothing to be done due to the fact that its extant laws do not permit a rejection of fully certified suspect/convict brought by the courts. The number of inmates consequently almost tripled its capacity.

In an unpublished research project ‘Intelligence Report and Safe Custody of Inmates in the Prison’, Ishaka (2011), quoted an online publication saying, ‘Two hundred members of the radical Muslim sect used assault rifles and free more 750 prisoners in an armed attack on a Nigerian prison’ (mail Online, 2010). Recidivism played a major role in planning the attack. Many foot soldiers of the sect whom were brought and detained on the basis of other charges indicated on their warrants were set free in the premeditated assault. Therefore, people including miscreants can recidivate for many dubious motives, and our case study suffices.

Different theoretical perspectives, one of which is the Social bond theory, argues that prisons congestion can be ameliorated if the rate of recidivism is reduced to a barest minimum. Social bond theorists opine that inmate visitation is one of the salient means to curbing the incessant prison reentry. Bales and Mears (2008), argue that, there is an underlying assumption that prisoners’ families and friends, not the state, will be the major sources of concrete aid and social and emotional support (Hairston, Rollin, and Jo, 2004). Philanthropic organizations, religious bodies and individuals have, to a large extend, a stake in this task.

The ongoing military campaign in the Northeast has gone a long way in militating against the activities of insurgents and peace is gradually returning. However, to sustain the relatively enjoyed peace in the region, concerted efforts must be continuing in rebuilding the ravaged communities directly or indirectly affected by the inferno. Countering violent extremism cannot be fought only on the pages of newspapers, the internet and other media outfits, the crusade must be extended to those outlets keeping erring youths like the prisons and other correction institutions.

The prison is unfortunately relatively incapacitated in the regards. Having agreed that recidivism has a direct correlation with the insurgency-as stated earlier, those persons confined in prison one time or the other find it difficult to reintegrate properly into the society after their jail terms and therefore have a relapse in one crime or the other. Unfortunately, this category of youths are more susceptible to militancy. As the Federal government is doing its best in equipping and overhauling the criminal justice system, it is important that the prison is rallied around to make it vibrant in carrying out its mandate.

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