PFN seeks government intervention on plight of prison inmates
The Executive Director, Prison Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Mr. Benson Ngozi Iwuagwu has urged government to come to the aid of inmates in prisons across the country apparently to improve their quality of life.
Addressing journalists recently, he stated, “Overcrowding in our prisons and the consequential inhuman custodial conditions is a factor of our adversarial criminal justice system and its very wide prison gates. Our criminal justice jurisprudence must shift from its overtly deterrence and incapacitation disposition measures to a holistic and therapeutic justice system that is cognizant of the offender’s need for punishment appropriate to rehabilitation and the victim to healing, reparation and closure; consistent with African traditional justice system which promotes punishment for reconciliation, reparation, restoration, peace and social harmony.
Speaking further, he said incarceration without targeted treatment is cruel, counterproductive and fuels the vicious circle of crime-imprisonment-release and imprisonment. To break the vicious circle calls for a collective social action and synergy by individuals, organisations and the government. This is what we are doing with our life Recovery Pre-Release Empowerment Programme, which is also known as the Onesimus Project. This is a mentoring programme targeted at inmates with six months to the end of prison terms.
“Run on set curriculum in partnership with Covenant University, Nigerian Prison Service, PFN, and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, (SMEDAN). The goal is to reduce recidivism by providing the inmate students with psycho-analytic counseling and therapy, business and entrepreneurial instructions and vocational skill training.”
In addition, he said, “perceptions, behaviors and attitudes modification are critical elements in any reform and rehabilitation effort. However, our adversarial criminal justice system has an inherent counter-productive hardening effect on accused and convicted persons, which constitute a barrier to any reform effort.
“To address this, we have a behavior and attitude modification programme called “Sycamore Tree Project”. This is a restorative justice tool where offenders consider the ripple effect of crime and listen to the pains and trauma of victims of crimes. Almost all of them come away remorseful, willing to meet their actual victims.
Similarly, representatives Covenant University, Nigerian Prisons and (SMEDAN) commended the activities of PFN adding that government should also come to aid prison inmates across the country.
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