People’s agitation on the hope of inmates after serving the jail term is a bit dicey as the system was not friendly prior the reformation of the correctional service across the nation.
The most common tradition in the correctional centers is for inmates and culprits to remain in custody pending the determination of their cases before any honourable court and for them to serve the punishment meted on them.
Recently, stakeholders in the administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria revisited this age long tradition and considered it as obsolete and not good enough for humanity and the society at large as it is promoting redundancy among the inmates after gaining freedom from custody.
The stakeholders comprising the representatives of Judiciary, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Correctional Service, Ministry of Justice, Non- governmental Organization among others are currently fashioning out a model towards rebranding the system to better serve the society.
This rebranding process brought about the rebirth of the Institution from Nigerian Prison Services to Nigerian Correctional Services, an idea channeled towards changing peoples’ perception about the Institution and reshaping their negative view on the Prison Service.
No doubt Correctional Centres are now known for activities where series of developmental and vocational skills can be acquired by inmates for self development after serving the prescribed jail terms.
On assumption of Office, the Chief Judge of Ogun State, Hon. Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu highlighted her seven point agenda to include decongestion of Prison Formations across State. Fortunately, this lofty initiative of his Lordship finds support in Section 3 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJL) which provides that “the purpose of this law is to ensure that the system of administration of Criminal Justice in Ogun State promote
efficient management of Criminal Justice Institutions, Speedy dispensation of justice, Protection of the Society from Crime and Protection of the rights and interests of the suspects, the defendants and the Victim”.
As part of the need for decongestion of the Correctional Centres, Ogun State Chief Judge, Hon Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu at different occasions received stakeholders which include Christian, Islamic and Non-governmental Organisations (NGO) to factor out modalities aimed at reducing the congestion at Correctional Centers in the State.
In light of the foregoing, a faith based Christian charity group, Prison Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ogun State Chapter during its visit to the Office of the Chief Judge canvassed for the provision of “a half way home” building structure in the State to assist victims of sexual offences, other sensitive offences and convicts released from criminal activities to be readjusted to good and acceptable private life.
Chairman of the fellowship, Pastor James Olayemi who made the appeal, said the structuring of the “half way home” facility in the State will also enable it to accommodate inmates released from the Correctional Centres from committing same crimes or other capital offences for which they were incarcerated. Besides, the religious group pledged its loyalty and support for the Ogun State Chief Judge at ensuring that His lordship achieves her seven point agenda in the State Judiciary.
The fellowship Chairman, who appreciated the Chief Judge’s feat in the State Judiciary, said the group will support His Lordship in the dispensation of Justice especially in the decongestion of Correctional Service Centre in the State which is one of His Lordship’s seven point agenda. He said one of the functions of the fellowship include capacity building and the deployment of innovative solutions for the prevention and remediation of crime and they are achieved through several programmes and organised prayers.
A member of the religious body, Mrs Kusimo Atinuke who enlightened the gathering on “Promise Path Programme” of the fellowship said the platform is designed to assist vulnerable children who are out of touch with their parents who are in incarceration. She further stressed that apart from mentoring and providing such children with psycho-social support, the religious group provides needed supports to make them stay in school and not miss the absence of their parents who are in incarceration.
In her reflection, Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu, acknowledged the efforts of stakeholders of Administration of Criminal Justice, Ogun State as well as those of the Prison fellowship at reforming prisoners through prayers and the word of God, urging members to sustain their good works.
Justice Dipeolu said “I appreciate you all for the great activities and humanitarian efforts by the fellowship to various Correctional Centres across the State, I urge you not to just preach alone but by taking care of those who you are winning over to God”.
While speaking on the clogged Jail delivery exercise visits to Correctional Centres in the State, His Lordship emphasised that because of Covid 19, a five–man Sub-Committee was inaugurated to work on documents of awaiting
trials Inmates recommended for release across the State Correctional Centres.
According to the Chief Judge, some of the duties of the Sub-committee on decongestion of prison, is to oversee the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice and Other related Matters Law (ACJL), 2017 to fast track decongestion of the Correctional Centres in the State as well as advise the Honourable Chief Judge on related matters.
The Honourble Chief Judge further informed the gathering that “Section 3 of the ACJL provides that the purpose of this law is to ensure that the system of administration of Criminal Justice in Ogun State promotes efficient management of Criminal Justice Institutions, Speedy dispensation of justice, Protection of the Society from Crime and Protection of the rights and interests of the suspects, the defendants and the Victims”
To better deepen the strength and accommodates the contributions of the Body in the Administration of Criminal Justice in the State, the Immediate Past Chairman of the PFN, Pastor (Dr.) Emmanuel Elege was appointed by Hon. Justice Dipeolu to join the Sub-Committee on jail delivery exercise.
This recent visit of the Christian body underscored the need for more robust working relationship among the stakeholders towards a common goal to foster togetherness, future collaboration and total growth in the tasks ahead in line with the goal of prison decongestion.
The collaboration if properly managed will facilitate great developmental progress in the Correctional Facilities as more inmates would be engaged in vocational skills as well as acquire educational certificates like the Senior School Certificate and University Degrees as currently being undertaken by some inmates at National Open University.