Lawyer raises concerns over power of state prison controller to reject inmates

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]An activist for prison reform and Executive Director, Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mr Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, has raised concerns over the power granted to the State Controller in the new prison law to reject extra inmates when jail facilities are full.

Adetola-Kazeem, a Lagos-based lawyer, described the new law as a watershed in the history of the treatment of offenders in Nigeria, addeding that for the law to fulfill it aims a lot must be done.

On his concern about the practicability of Section 12(8), which empowers the State Controller of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) to reject additional inmates when the facility under his watch is full, Adstola-Kazeem asks:

“Where will the inmates be taken to? Will such an inmate be released, particularly where he has been alleged to have committed heinous crimes? This particular provision is very unrealistic unless more prisons are built, considering our population as a country, and more particularly in urban areas like Lagos, Kano, Rivers, etc.”

The lawyer believes that except more prisons are built, that provision of the law would not work as prisons in the country have already overshot their capacity.

Adetola-Kazeem said that it more important than ever to move the matter of prison administration from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List, so that both federal and state governments can share the burden of funding the prison.

He said that until this was done, and more prisons were built, the law might be merely academic.

“The Correctional Services Act cannot work effectively unless some attention is paid to other aspects of our national lives. The Non-Custodial measures such as community service, probation, parole, etc, may not work effectively if we do not have reliable data of every person in Nigeria. If you don’t have reliable information of people you can’t effectively trace them when they abscond. Furthermore, technologies like trackers needs to be adopted to effectively track those on parole, for instance, to prevent them from escaping justice.

“There is need for infrastructural upgrade and training and retraining of correctional officers for the new act to have any effect. In order for the act to fulfill its aim of reforming, rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders, there needs to be fewer people in our overcrowded prisons and adequate and state of the art training facilities. This will ensure that most inmates can benefit from the beneficial training, be it educational and vocational, that will be of immense benefit to them after reledase. In the event that the custodial centre has exceeded its capacity, the State Controller shall know how to remedy the situation when such occurrences happen.

“It is suggested that the prison be removed from the Exclusive Legislative List so that states can cater for many of the inmates in prison who have committed or have been alleged to committed state offences; that will lessen the burden on the Federal Government. The state should build their prisons,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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