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‘’REHABILITATION WITHIN THE PRISON SYSTEM AND THE ROLE OF VOLUNTEERS’’ PRESENTED BY BENSON NGOZI IWUAGWU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PRISON FELLOWSHIP NIGERIA AT ALPHA NIGERIA PRISON MINISTRY CONFERENCE, JUNE 22, 2019 AT CHAPEL OF THE HEALING CROSS, IDI- ARABA, LAGOS.
The subject of rehabilitation is one of the core objectives of the Nigerian Prison Service, the others being reformation and re-integration. These are interlinked and related, our focus however is on rehabilitation. What is the system of the Nigerian Prison Service? What is rehabilitation? In the context of the prison system, what gaps in furtherance of its rehabilitation objectives are identifiable? Who is a volunteer, what is their role, cognizant of the tripartite nature of the prisoner? 1 Thessalonian 5 vs. 23.
How many prisons and prisoners do we have? What is the demographics of the inmates in our prisons?
What is the crime profile of the inmates, what could be the pre-disposing factors that can be gleaned, what needs are therein revealed, requiring the supportive intervention of the volunteer – individual or organization.
Prescription without diagnosis is recipe for frustration and failure. The scripture cannot be broken. Through knowledge shall the righteous be delivered. Proverbs 11 vs. 9.
Nigerian Prison Service is a creation of law, Nigerian Prisons Act Cap 29, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. There is however a Nigerian Prisons and Correctional Service Bill 2016, which has been passed, awaiting presidential assent. When that happens, the NPS Act of 1972 will be repealed.
What is the system of Nigerian Prison Service, bearing in mind our system is an off-shoot of the British prison system, whose philosophy is premised on deterrence. Under that system rehabilitation is based on reform through hard labour, hard fare(reduced diet) and hard bed. Thankfully, under the proposed Nigerian Prisons and Correctional Service, the philosophy will be correctional, meaning imprisonment will be appropriate to rehabilitation, hopefully, this will be seen in budgeting, programmes and infrastructure. Safe custody however, remains the primary purpose of the prison service.
What then is Rehabilitation?
The Health and Social Welfare Directorate of the Nigerian Prison Service says that, through its welfare section,’’ it ensures the realization of one of the major objectives of the prison service i.e. the reform and rehabilitation of convicts, through a complicated set of mechanisms which include counseling, group and case work, recreational activities, religious services, adult and remedial education.’’
Rehabilitation must while reforming the character of the offender, importantly, it must focus on preventing recidivism. Rehabilitation techniques are varied depending on the nature of the offender and type of crime committed.Could be educational, vocational or psychological rehabilitation.
Oxford Dictionary of Law defined rehabilitation as Treatment aimed at improving an offenders character or behaviour ( including education, counseling, employment, training, etc.) that is undertaken with the goal of reintegrating the offender into society.
Rehabilitation takes place both inside and outside the prison.
Who is a Volunteer?
Merriam- Webster among other meanings, defined a Volunteer as a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service.
‘’A volunteer is someone who gives time, effort and talent to a need or cause without profiting monetarily’’ Volunteer as verb, has the meaning ‘’to choose to act in recognition of a need, with an attitude of social responsibility and without concern for monetary profit, going beyond one’s basic obligation’’.
“Someone who willingly does something in which there is no tangible reward”
A volunteer is a trained and passionate helper.
Why Volunteers Are Needed
Volunteers are social arteries and care givers and bridge builders between the inmates, criminal justice institutions, inmates family, church and community. Their activities ease the re-entry of discharging inmates back to the community.
Volunteers are mentors, they show inmates love and empathy and demonstrate that they are not forgotten. They offer inmates psychosocial encouragement and support.
Volunteers model friendship and motivation, reason for hope that allow inmates imbibe new knowledge and values.
To become a volunteer you will need to apply and your application would be reviewed for the following reasons:
Protect prison chaplain from a misguided volunteer
Why do you want to be a volunteer?
Are you called?
Maintain an objective and concerned attitude when working with inmates.
Let your life be genuine!) free from trouble, so that you do not add to the anxiety of the
inmates by working out your own problems through them.
Sympathy or guilt is not Christian motivation.
Curiosity to know the prison is no motivation.
Fascination by crime, sensational news stories and the prestige the ministry affords among Christian church.
There is a danger of Christian volunteers clothing wrong motives in Biblical language.
The fruit of the spirit is a Christian’s pure motive for the work Gal.5:22
What is the demographics of inmates in Nigerian prisons?
Inmates of Nigerian prisons are comprised of convicts and awaiting trial inmates.
Figures from a recent study show that as at December 2016, Awaiting Trial inmates constituted 76% of prison inmates who are within the youthful ages.
PRISON ADMISSIONS BY AGE GROUP AND YEAR (2013-2015.
STATUS 2013 ; 2014 ; 2015 (AS AT Q2)
Under 16 years — 1,031; 45; 74
16-20 YEARS — 23,651; 20,516; 4,993
21-25 YEARS — 32,477; 30,155; 8,831
26-50 YEARS — 97,300; 85,160; 30,358
51 AND ABOVE — 4,437; 2,966; 1,536
TOTAL — 158,896; 138,842; 45,792
Source: NIGERIA PRISON SERVICE Abuja. Annual Abstract of Social Statistics 2016. P.179
In comparing the above results, it is evident that between the age bracket of 26-50 and 21-35 years constitute the bulk of prison inmates. Regrettably, minors below 16 years were among prison inmates, complimented by a small percentage of those above 50 years of age. In 2013 61.25% of prison admissions was made up of inmates within the age bracket of 26-50 years, followed by 20.42% from age group of 21-25 years. Under 16 aged inmates made up 0.65%, followed by 2.80% from age group of 51 years and above respectively.
Another finding is that most of the inmates are poor with low education and employment levels.
What is the crime profile? That what are the common offense types for which the inmates are held?
Most of the crimes are economic and petty financial crimes.
What could be the causes of these crimes?
There are environmental and possibly genetic factors.
Looming large as a causative factor are socio-economic injustice. Poor distribution of opportunities.
Great disparity between the haves and have nots.
What Remedy would you propose?
Most of the crimes they stand accused or convicted for are property or property related offences, as seen in the diagram below:
Having seen that most of the inmates are in the energetic and productive age bracket but are largely poor, with low education, who are largely involved in economic and property crimes, what would be the role of the volunteer to reverse the adverse conditions of inmates?
The Role of Volunteers within the Nigerian Prison System rehabilitation objectives.
Cognizant of your capacity and capability begin by carrying out a Needs Assessment Survey.
Identify a gap within the rehabilitation objective.
Design a programme or project with clear objectives, deliverables and timelines.
Carryout necessary advocacy to sensitize, enlighten and mobilize man and material resources.
Life Recovery Pre-release Empowerment Programme, a.k.a The Onesimus Project.
The high and escalating rate of crime is traceable, in part, to the high rate of recidivism [re-offending and re-conviction] among ex-convicts, there is need for complementary interventionist programmes to address this crucial supply stream to the criminal pool.
The rate of recidivism has been put at about 72% in Lagos State. Factors responsible for the high rate of recidivism include stigmatization, ostraciation and discrimination against ex-convicts; resultantly, they have very low self esteem and no opportunity for meaningful participation in ordinary socio-economic and cultural intercourse; recoursing, to the only welcoming community-old soul mates and criminal gang-for survival. There is, as well, in consequence, a substantial loss in our social capital and productive capacity as a nation.
To reduce recidivism (put at 72% in Lagos state) by 50% through business and entrepreneurial training, vocational and Life skill empowerment, behavioural, psychoanalytic counseling and therapy.
The Project Mission is to re-orient, train, empower and equip Prison inmates with 6 months to the end of their prison terms, as to ease their re-entry into Society and re-integration into constructive, meaningful and productive socio-economic lives; to discourage their return to crime, criminality and prison.
Restorative Justice Pre-trial Diversion and Mediation in Criminal Matters
WHAT IS OUR OBJECTIVE?
The primary objective of the Restorative Justice project is, to offer an alternative but complimentary justice system that is not only minimally demanding on custodial infrastructure and costs, but is also geared towards offender reformation and responsibility, victim validation and healing, and restoration of communal harmony.
WHAT IS OUR GOAL?
To decongest prison by providing an effective, time conscious and cost friendly alternative system to full criminal trials and prison remand, in appropriate cases (first offenders, juveniles and misdemeanors).
Rehabilitation generally is complex and complicated, particularly within the Nigerian Prison Service which seem to bear the brunt of the weaknesses and failings of the criminal justice system. Rehabilitation must be holistic, having in perspective that the ultimate goal is to get the inmate back into the society a changed and productive man, who will have no recourse to crime and criminality. It is not possible to accomplish this goal without knowledgeable, committed and passionate volunteers, who are motivated by God’s love and altruism.
 Ademola Ogunleye, The Nigerian Prison System, (Specific Computers Publishers: Lagos, 2007)
 Health and Social Welfare, Nigerian Prison Service (2011) www..prisons.gov.ng>health_social_wel.
 Oxford Dictionary of Law, 6th Edition (eds)Elizabeth A. Martin, Jonathan Law, Oxford University Press. 2006.
 Merriam-Webster, Available at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volunteer
 Prison Survey : Nigeria, NPS & PRAWA