Law & Judiciary

Experts canvass ex-convicts’ integration

Experts in the justice administration and correctional sectors have called for a mechanism to ensure the integration of ex-convicts into society.

The experts stressed that attitudinal change toward ex-convicts is necessary to minimise criminality in society. They spoke at a two-day workshop on inmates’ behavioural and cognitive modification, themed: “Remedial Programmes Symbiotic Reinforcement”.

The event was organised by Prison Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), held at R & A City Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.” Executive Director of Prisoner’s Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Dr Uju Agomoh, who led a discussion at the event, said a society that refuses to reintegrate offenders and ex-offenders further forces them to embrace those who have hard criminal networks and will be worse for the country.

Dr Agomoh, who spoke on the “Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 and Faith-Based Correctional Programmes”, said unless ex-offenders are integrated into the society without stigmatisation, the problem of minimising criminality will persist.

According to her, where a crime has been committed, there are three major dimensions that should be addressed, adding that it becomes problematic if any of them is missed.

She explained that the three dimensions are what you do with the offender, the victim and the community where the offence is committed. “Often we kind of get so concentrated on the offender and forget the other two.

So, there is a need to do everything to help reduce the risk of the offender committing an offence again.

“It is only when the offending behaviour is reduced, that you and I are safe. But then the other thing is about the victim. I have never seen a society as insensitive as ours. And this thing cuts across.

The funny thing is that this was not what our traditional criminal justice system was.

“If society will begin to stigmatise the person when he is in custody and when he is outside the custody, we as a society will be worse for it. Again, as I said, we need to engage with the offender in such a way to reduce the offending behaviour.

“I think it is only when we begin to do this that our justice dispensation system will begin to have a human’s face. And that does not negate the focus and interest of the support mechanism that needs to happen for the offender, not because you like the offender but because you want to reduce the offender’s chances of re-offending,” she submitted.

She stated that it will be good for us as a people, in terms of enhancing security, to have a comprehensive approach to addressing the processes of persons affected during a criminal offence, whether the offender, the victim, the family or the community.

In his remarks, the Controller General, Nigeria Correctional Services (NCS), Mr Haliru Nababa, urged participants to pay attention to the content of the programme.

Nababa, who was represented by Assistant Controller General, Training and Staff Development, Mr Lawal Gusau, further harped on the importance of training for human capital development.

He said: “Training is an important aspect of staff development without which an organisation cannot progress. “You will need the content of this course for your progress ìn the Service and the development of the organisation.”

Also, the Assistant Controller General of Correctional, in charge of Zone A, made up of Lagos and Ogun states, Mr Uche Nwobi, said the issue of restorative justice is designed to help the system. According to him, if you go to custodial facilities, there is congestion.

“But with the coming of restorative justice, we discovered that a lot of people who should have been in custody are out there, doing their job elsewhere and not within the walls of the prison.

Asked about the need for the controversial beauty contest involving Chidinma Ojukwu, he said inmates are treated like every other human being. “In the system, we don’t discriminate against anybody. We give them equal treatment to help them with what will happen after imprisonment,” he said.

Earlier, the Executive Director of Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN), Bar. Benson Iwuagwu, said the country has a great need for the correctional system to become more responsive than it is, The Trumpet gathered.

Noting that the common characteristic before now is a high rate of recidivism, he declared that such is a common denominator of a system that is either failing, failed or not effective.

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He explained that it was on account of such that the Prison Fellowship International came up with programmes that are remedial to the inmate’s behaviour. Iwuagwu, said the purpose of the 4th correctional officer’s workshop was to form a collaboration between the Nigerian Correctional Service and the Prison Fellowship Nigeria.

He urged the Correctional Service to begin to explore and exploit the opportunities that abound within the civil society and faith-based organisations, with a view to reforming the inmates.

He said: “They should look at what these organisations are offering. And in our particular case, we are offering specifically targeted objective programmes that address some of those behavioural attitudes that are disposed to crime and criminality. “Because crime and criminality are critical factors, if they are not objectively and intentionally addressed, it creates an ugly situation.”

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