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Group hails NCS Act as Lagos CJ, others speak at criminal justice confab

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The Prison Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has applauded the Federal Government for signing into law the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 (NCSA 2019) and the novelty of splitting the Service into two complementary directorates – custodial and non-custodial – signaling the move from retributive to restorative jurisprudence in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

According to PFN, 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 socialisation.

“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 socio-economic productivity and development.

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“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,” the group’s executive director, Mr. Benson Iwuagwu, said while announcing its 2020 online conference in Lagos.

According to him, to foster a holistic approach to the problem of crime, PFN is organising the National Criminal Justice and Corrections Conference, which will bring together various stakeholders to deliberate and propose measures that will enable communities’ tackle rising crime wave.

The conference, with the theme, “Corrections, Faith-Based Therapies and Communities of Support,” he said, seeks to precipitate social attitudinal change towards those who are involved in or affected by crime.

“The conference will enlighten, educate, inform, sensitize and mobilize public and private sentiments fora collective effort, participation, patronage and support in the effort to reform, rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders. It will also explore ways to promote communal harmony for the common good, peace, security and improved socio-economic productivity.

“In line with the realities of our time, this year’s conference will be virtual and will take place Thursday and Friday October 15 and 16 2020. It is open to everyone interested in criminal justice and correctional issues.

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Billed to speak at the conference are the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Kazeem Alogba, Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service, Mr. Ja’Afaru Ahmed, the Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), Vice Chancellor, Covenant University, Prof. A.B Williams, among others.

Iwuagwu argued that fundamental issue that confronts Nigeria 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,” he said, adding that ostracisation and discrimination against ex-custodial inmates is harmful and destructive.

He therefore maintained that 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,” he argued.

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