Adetola-Kazeem: Reform programmes critical to keeping ex-convicts away from crime
Criminality Thrives In An Atmosphere Of Hunger, Unemployment Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) is a non-governmental organisation that provides free legal, rehabilitation and reintegration services to prison inmates and ex-convicts. Its director, Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem told OMIKO AWA that steps must be taken to prevent ex-convicts returning to crime.
How best can ex-convict be reintegrated into the society upon their release from prison?
Convicts can be assimilated into the society by making them to feel that they still belong to the society, while in prison. The Nigerian Prison Service should make efforts to institutionalise pre-release programmes for convicts who would soon serve out their sentences. The programme will ensure that inmates work in formal institutions shortly before they are released. This will enable them to be accustomed to work ethics and also have the feeling that they are still part of the society, and not feel estranged when released.
The pre-release programme will also entail general and psychological assessment of the inmates to determine the best interventions for individual inmates. There will also be in-depth counseling sessions to cover vocational, academic, social and personal issues. Additionally, there should be post-prison job and educational support by government, faith-based institutions and non-governmental organisations. There should also be a campaign against the stigmatisation of ex-inmates. All these will ensure the effective reintegration of ex-offenders into the society.
In other words, vocational trainings prisoners get in prison is not enough to ease their transition?
Prisons congestion makes it difficult to have any effective vocational or other training for prisoners while they are in prison because there are many people competing for little resources. The workshops are either too small, or not well-equipped. There used to be an institutionalised after-care services in prisons to support and ensure ex-inmates live a productive and crime-free life, but that system is no longer in place or at best is in a shambles. The funding that is available is not adequate and the ex-offenders also frustrate the programme because they most times do not want to have anything to do with the correctional officers otherwise known as warders.
How can a society reduce criminal offences?
The best way to have a crime free society is to improve on the economy and also to create opportunities for people to thrive financially. If people are hungry they will commit crimes.
Secondly, parents and individual families should ensure that they show good examples and bring up their children as upright as possible. The society is a mirror of the family, if we have corrupt families we would have a corrupt society.
Lastly, government should improve the efficiency of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). This will go a long way to reduce crime. Suspects should be arrested and tried without delay, while ensuring that their fundamental rights are protected.
Also, more prisons should be built and there should be concerted efforts to ensure that prisoners are reformed through innovative programmes so that when they leave the prisons they would not be involved in acts that would take them there again.
Such programmes would also enable the ex-convicts to sustain themselves and be free from crime. The prison should not be a dumping ground for awaiting trial suspects, who eventually mix with hardened criminals and thereafter transform to hardened criminals.
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