Getting punished for transgressing the law is normal in every decent society. Major offenders are sent to prison where they are confined to do time for the crimes committed. What isn’t normal is being a prisoner within the prison walls. In Nigeria, the prison is synonymous with torture, hopelessness and death.
In order to deconstruct this stereotype, the Nigerian Prisons service was recently renamed the Nigeria Correctional Service. Shifting focus from punitive to corrective measures, the service now laden with the duty of rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates to make them better members of the society has opened its doors to and employ all necessary and available means of transforming the inmates within their care.
This charge has led to a partnership between the Ikoyi Custodial Centre with Independent Prisoners Rehabilitation organisation (IPRO), with the aim of using theatre as a tool for change behind the wall.
Superintendent Rotimi Oladokun, Public Relations officer, Lagos State Command, explained the importance of the synergy, “Emphasis is focused now on rehabilitation, reformation and integration of inmates. We are not just keeping the inmates to be punished.
“We want to work on their minds and presently we have over 120 students who have completed O levels and 500 running degree programmes in our Lagos centre of the National Open University. We are moving this to a new frontier, hoping that, with this stepping-stone, we will have some of them make it to winning global awards.”ß
The initiative, a brain child of Ola Alabi, founder and trustee, IPRO, began 3 years ago in Ibadan where 32 inmates of Agodi Prison were inducted as theatre artistes. The inmates showcased talent and dedication as they brought their stories to life in a play. They were inducted and certified into the world of theatre by former Director-General of the Nigeria National theatre, Professor Ahmed Yerima.