How not to treat an ex-convict
Sir, in December, 2021, I read in the news about an 18-year-old boy who had been arrested on three occasions for traffic robbery. The last arrest, at Ketu area of Lagos, was the third time. When he was returned from the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), just a few weeks after his previous arrest by the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad (RRS), he resumed traffic robbery. Despite being convicted and sentenced to three-month imprisonment, he was not deterred. When the teenager was arrested the third time, he confessed that he went into robbery again to offset the debt he incurred after his release months ago. One wonders if the young boy’s reason for returning to crime justifies his action. Similarly, few days ago, men of the RRS arrested six suspected robbers for allegedly dispossessing accident victims of their belongings around Ojodu-Berger on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Four of the arrested suspects were said to be ex-convicts. Would it be said that these ex-convicts have become brutally insensitive and unrepentant?
Truth is, the prison walls are not only meant to only deprive inmates their freedom, but they are to refine them. Nigerian prison has been renamed Correctional Centre and as the name suggests, it should bring about a change in the life of anyone who ever visited there on the basis of conviction after freedom. It however hasn’t lived up to its expectations after rebranding. There should be a reform in the activities of NCS, not just in the name. There ought to be some lasting lessons an ex-convict learns as a result of corrective measures put in place by the custodian centres.
It’s over two years that the Nigeria Prison Service was changed to Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), yet nothing really has changed about their modus operandi. The system of operation of NCS still remains same as the desired transformation many expected is yet to manifest with overcrowded prison facilities, underfeeding, large number of inmates awaiting trials among many other challenges which have been an albatross for decades.
If after regaining his freedom on completion of prison terms or by virtue of pardon from a constituted authority, the ex-convict fails to turn a new leave, then the correctional institution has had no impact on him. An offender, released after satisfying the due process as specified by law, is not expected to return for same or any other offence again if he is well corrected during his stay. The NCS is saddled with the responsibility of reintegrating a pardoned or freed offender into the society for a better life and living. Rebranding of the NPS to NCS should include a commensurate change in their mandates.
Ministry of interior must put in place various programmes that will positively alter and correctively reconfigure the attitude of those handling convicts in their custody. Services of Counsellors and Emotional Intelligence experts must be engaged to regularly hold sessions with these prisoners.
• Kayode Solomon Ojewale, of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org