The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Aloogba will on October 15 and 16 speak at a virtual conference, aimed at propagating restorative justice whereby rehabilitated offenders and victims of crime collectively seek justice for each other.
The conference which is titled, “Corrections, Faith-Based Therapies and Communities of Support” and organized by Prison Fellowship Nigeria, seeks to precipitate social attitudinal change towards those who are involved in or affected by crime. It will enlighten and mobilize public sentiments for a collective support in the effort to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders.
While speaking to Daily Sun, the executive director, Prison Fellowship Nigeria, ( PFN) Mr. Benson Iwuagwu said the speakers at the conference will explore ways to promote communal harmony for the common good, peace, security and improved socio-economic productivity.
“Crime is a multi-causal, disruptive and destructive social phenomenon which requires collaborative and synergized intervention to solve,” he said. “As a psycho-social disease, its treatment must be purposeful, personalized and measured. A knee jerk and as hoc approach is doomed to fail.
“In order to foster a holistic approach to the problem of crime, Prison Fellowship Nigeria is organizing the National Criminal Justice and Corrections Conference which will bring together various stakeholders to deliberate and propose measures that will enable our communities tackle rising crime wave.”
Iwuagwu seized the opportunity to applaud the government for signing into law the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 (NCSA 2019) and the novelty of separating the Service into two complementary directorates – custodial and non-custodial directorates. According to him, it signals the move from retributive to restorative jurisprudence in our criminal justice system.
Recall that the NCSA 2019 which complements Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, “seeks to remedy the mischief of sending all classes of offenders into the same confinement, a practice that, among other social malaise, spurned inhuman custodial conditions and festered criminal socialization.”
Iwuagwu said that in the old dispensation, first time and petty offenders became adepts and got referrals to criminal contacts and syndicates on discharge. “They soon get into trouble with the law and are returned to confinement! The phenomenon is called recidivism, prison shuttle, the vicious wheel, a veritable supply stream of crime and criminality that fuels fear and insecurity, which in turn hamper socioeconomic productivity and development.
“We expect that the government will power the Act, since it is not the accumulation of seed yam that ensures bountiful harvest.Other critical investments in infrastructure and human capital are crucial.The NCSA 2019 has many noble provisions that must be complemented with requisite infrastructure. There should be dedicated Rehabilitation and Vocational Centers for non-custodial treatments.
“A fundamental issue that confronts us today is the fate and wellbeing of former custodial inmates upon discharge. When inmates are released from custody, whether by reason of completion of sentence, clemency or other legal recourse, they face obstacles and impediments that are counterproductive to the values and objects of reformation. This is particularly with respect to stigmatization and discrimination.
“Ostracization and discrimination against ex-custodial inmates is harmful and destructive. Legislations that discriminate against those who have had criminal convictions must be repealed. Even our laws frown at double jeopardy! By discriminating against ex-offenders and ostracizing them, we are simply biting our nose to spite our face and fueling the vicious crime shuttle.
“Let us help them to re-enter meaningful socio-economic and cultural life again. Otherwise, we inadvertently drive them back to crime and prison and thevicious wheel continues to torment us. Together let us break the vicious wheel.
“The tripod of Reformation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration cannot be done by government and the Nigerian Correctional Service alone. There is a place of family, friends and community, including corporate entities.
“We call for a deliberate re-entry and reintegration policy that reckons with and encourages participation of individuals and corporate networks of support for the re-entry and reintegration of ex-offenders, including provision of appropriate incentives and enabling environment, as a crime curtailment strategy. The guns and custodial centers are not enough and will never be.Central to this will be government detoxification of the ex-offender, who in the words of Winston Churchill has paid for his sin in the hard coinage of imprisonment.”