Nigerian Prison System; Is the American Parole System an Option?
As much as every nation wants a criminal free society, one cannot overemphasize the need for justice been done to the accused, and the society. If justice is said to be the crux of the Nigerian criminal litigation system, then it becomes of essence to review the prison system of Nigeria.
Prisons are generally a rehabilitation and correctional facility which are meant to re-integrate the lives of those who have violated the rules of a society. If these are the purpose for its establishment, it therefore becomes imperative that this institution be reviewed to ensure that the purpose of its establishment is not defeated.
On the basis of imprisonment policy, prisons were established for the following reasons:
Reports from the National Working Group on Prison Reform and Decongestion shows that the total number of prisoners as at 2005 was between 40,000 and 45,000. By 2016, the total number of in-mates as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics has increased to 68,686 despite the fact that the capacity of the prisons could only contain 50,803 inmates. This therefore leaves us with questions as to where the remaining 17, 883 are kept. President Mohammed Buhari in fact aired his concern about the deplorable state of these prisons noting that it is a national scandal as many prisons are overcrowded by 90%. This therefore calls for the introduction of new approaches in ensuring that our prisons are further de-congested.
SHOULD NIGERIA ADOPT THE AMERICAN PAROLE SYSTEM?
The benefits that could be derived from the Parole System ranges from prison decongestion to developing the communities through the prisoner’s manpower. Its advantages also extend to re-building prisoners in such a way as to reshape their behavioural and social pattern through direct monitoring by designated officials and persons.
However, whether Nigeria should adopt the system is dependent on so many factors. Some of which are:
- Do we have what it takes to accommodate and supervise prisoners in our community?
- How best can we modify and amend the system to prevent the American failures in the Nigerian system.
The success of this system is therefore dependent on how best we are able to set a framework to ensure that Parole Officers are diligent in supervising, monitoring and inculcating the right moral, behavioural and social pattern in prisoners on parole.
Moreover, research has it that the mere fact that a prisoner serves out his jail term is not a yardstick for determining whether or not he would commit another offence at a later date. If this is so, why can’t we through the parole system reintegrate, monitor and inculcate the right moral, behavioural and social pattern in prisoners for us to have a better society.
WHAT PRINCIPLES SHOULD GUIDE THE PAROLE SYSTEM?
The following principles shall be recommended to ensure the effectiveness of Parole in the Nigerian System.
- Parole system should be limited to non-capital offences
- The Minimum Imprisonment Terms Policy should regulate when prisoners can be listed for consideration for Parole
- The Maximum Imprisonment Term Policy should regulate the maximum number of years a prison must serve in the event he does not qualify for parole.
- A Prison Parole Board should be put in place at the Prison level to recommend prisoners who upon serving the Minimum Imprisonment Term are qualified for parole.
- A Parole Board should be established at the Federal level to approve or disapprove the recommendation of prisoners for parole by the Prison Parole Board.
- Prisoners that are up for parole should present at least 2 relatives who will undertake to see to their upkeep while on parole. They shall also undertake to ensure that the prisoner on parole engage in his assigned community development service on a day to day basis.
- Prisoners on parole should be designated a community development service under the supervision of a Parole Officer in their locality.
- A Working Counselling Department should be set up to help reintegrate the mind-set of prisoners through counselling.
- A prisoner on parole should be made to report to a Working Counselling Department at least once a week to undergo the relevant reintegration process.
- Where a prisoner on parole persistently fails to do the assigned work, the Parole Officer should recommend that he is returned to prison to serve his Maximum Imprisonment Term.
It is high time Nigeria explored other means in de-congesting its prisons,as justice is best served when the purpose of imprisonment is achieved. Letting a prisoner perish is not a sure means of reforming him, but rather putting in place measures of re-integrating him is the surest way of achieving the desired results in prisoners.
Mayowa Ogunsan Esq., Associate, Wiseview Legal Consultancy
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