Nigeria’s Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has noted that discrimination and stigmatisation of ex-prisoners is a major factor in the high rate of recidivism in the country.

Delivering a Keynote Address at a one-day Social Intervention Seminar organised by Prison Fellowship Nigeria in Abuja, the Vice President said this situation was of great concern to the government because it is partly responsible for the increasing crime rate and insecurity of lives and property.

He expressed satisfaction that, among other objectives, the Seminar was organised to draw attention to the challenges that confront ex-prisoners on discharge from prison. According to him, “the greatest of these challenges is the discrimination and stigmatisation they face from members of the public. This sad situation, we know, accounts for the high rate of recidivism and is of great concern to the government given the social and security implications involved.

The Vice President said it is obvious that, the aims, purpose and activities of Prison Fellowship Nigeria, whose membership is composed of people from Churches across the different traditions of the Christian faith, accords largely with the 7 Points Agenda of this government and is therefore highly commendable.

A Communiqué issued at the end of the seminar advocated a shift from the retributive system of criminal justice, which focuses largely on punishment, to the restorative system which emphasises the need to repair the damaged relationships caused by crime.

The Seminar which took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Thursday 21 May 2009, had in attendance important personalities and delegates from various parts of the Federation.

Guest speakers included the President of Prison Fellowship International, Mr. Ron Nikkel from Washington, Professor Chioma Kanu Agomo, former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos and the Chancellor of Salem University, Archbishop Sam Amaga.

Among the dignitaries were the representatives of the Honourable Minister for Interior, and the Comptroller General, Nigerian Prisons Service. Also represented were security and human rights organisations including the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), etc.

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