The Nigerian Prisons; Reformation or Retribution

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Ayinde Oluseye

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined a Prison as a state of confinement or captivity; a place of confinement especially for lawbreakers; specifically an institution (such as one under state jurisdiction) for confinement of persons convicted of serious crimes.
The Prison is supposed to be a place where people are kept for reformative programs before being sent back into the society. A convicted person is supposed to be a better person after serving up their respective prison sentence but can we really say that about our Nigerian Prisons?
According to the Research recently conducted by REAP FINANCE; 8 out of every 10 convicted prisoners are sent back to the prisons before 5 years of their release, reasons for this is because the Nigerian Prisons is not a reformative confinement but a place where people with less criminal instincts and training are hardened to become a worse menace to the society.
Most of these ex-convicts are not easily accepted into the society, they carry the stigma of been an ex-convict for a long time and the ones with weak emotions either resort going back into bigger crimes or suicide.
When criminals in Norway leave prison, they stay out; It has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world 20%. The US is similar with Nigeria because most of the prisoners have one of the highest in the world with 76.6% of prisoners are re-arrested within five years.
A visit to the Ikoyi Prisons by REAP FINANCE showed over 70% of the inmates are awaiting trial, some with sustained gunshot injuries unattended to, some arrested for frivolous offences like wandering and they are put together with hardened criminals.
Some of them has been in incarceration for over 10 years waiting on the Messiah to come save them but what happens after they are released into the society they’ve been long gone from without nothing to do?
REAP FINANCE estimated a reduction of about 25% in overhead cost on the 2017 budget of about 19.8billion naira of the Prisons, out of which 8.4billion naira i.e 450 naira per inmate daily is used in feeding those awaiting trial.
If Justice as a matter of urgency is administered to people on the awaiting trial list; people with lesser crimes like prostitution and weaker drugs (Marijuana), petty stealing should be sent to reformative homes where they could either learn a trade or business and on completion of their programs; and these monies expended on feeding them yearly could be converted to a start-up capitals in form of a loan repayable over a period of time; this action would also generate income for the government through taxes and other charges and these groups of productive adults would be good to themselves and the society at large.