Fellowship seeks reduction of prison population

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By Chinyere Omeire
Lagos, May 14, 2022 The Executive Director, Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN), Mr Benson Iwuagwu, on Saturday called for proper implementation of the capacity regulation contained in the Nigeria Correctional Service Act of 2019.
Iwuagwu, also a lawyer, made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
According to him, the provision was made as one of the measures to regulate the population of suspects in correctional centres and police stations.
“Correctional centres are mandated to refuse admitting inmates where their capacities to house such inmates have been exceeded.
“I am not aware that the provision is working effectively because the line of notifications to be followed is quite long,” Iwuagwu said.
He said that another measure was provided in the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, which provided for periodic magisterial visits to police stations.
The PFN director said that such regular visits would help to make police stations less traumatising and less degrading for those in custody.
He said, “If these provisions are properly followed, definitely, the issues of long awaiting trials and people without legal representatives, will be reduced.”
According to him, PFN provides legal aid on regular basis to inmates as part of its criminal justice outreaches.
He called for collective and concerted actions by those able and touched by the conditions of custodial centres to help.
Iwuagwu praised Lagos State Judiciary for giving non-custodial sentences such as community service in an effort to reduce population of inmates.
He urged that efforts should be made to include other forms of non-custodial sentences such as treatment programmes.
Iwuagwu said: “Where one’s cause of anti-social behaviour has to do with substance abuse, the person could be sentenced to treatment programmes.
“If it is as a result of lack of skill or education, the person could be sentenced to learn a trade.
“Although there is non-custodial provisions in our laws, it has not been accorded the requisite infrastructure to make its impact become visible.
“This is the future of justice. Justice is not just about punishment, justice should be about healing and closure for the victims,” he said.
Iwuagwu added that justice should be about helping the offender to get out of bad behaviours and attitudes.
He called on other states to carry out the kind of reforms which Lagos State Judiciary was doing to reduce population of inmates.