A staunch crusader for prison reforms and Executive Director, Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, has raised concern over the power given to the state Controllers of Prisons in the new prison law to reject additional inmates when the facility under their watch is filled.
Adetola-Kazeem, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, described the new law as a watershed in the history of treatment of offenders in Nigeria, adding that for the bill to fulfill its aims, a lot must be done.
On his concern about the practicability of Section 12(8), which empowered the state Controllers of Correctional Service to reject additional inmates when the facility under his watch is filled, he said: “The question is where the inmates will be taken to. Will such an inmate be released, particularly where he has been alleged to have committed heinous crimes? This particular provision is very unrealistic unless more prisons are built, considering our population as a country, and more particularly in urban areas like Lagos, Kano, and Rivers States among others.”
He believes that except more prisons are built, that provision of the law would not work because prisons in the country have already overshot their capacity.
He said the need had arisen to move the prison from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list, so that both the Federal Government and the states can share the burden of funding the prison.
He said until this was done and more prisons built, the law might be a mere academic exercise.
“The Correctional Services Act cannot work effectively unless some attention is paid to other aspects of our national lives. The non-custodian measures such as community service, probation, and parole among others may not work effectively if we do not have reliable data of every person in Nigeria. If you don’t have reliable information of people, you can’t effectively trace them when they abscond. Furthermore, technologies like trackers need to be adopted to effectively track those on parole, for instance, to prevent them from escaping justice.
“There is need for infrastructural upgrade and training and retraining of correctional officers for the new act to have any effect. In order for the act to fulfill its aim of reforming, rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders, there needs to be fewer people in our overcrowded prisons and adequate and state-of-the-art training facility.