“Protect the society; reform the prisoner. If you cannot do the time, do not do the crime”. This is the motto used by the country of Nigeria, in regards to its correctional system. The slogan is an understatement when it comes to the actual and physical sense of being a prisoner in the Nigerian prisons. Nigerians prison systems concept of prison organization and administration was introduced by the British colonial administration. The present system to date still conforms to the British model (NCJRS government publications).
Nigeria had a dual prison system for more than a half century until the consolidation of the federal and local prisons in 1968. The Nigerian Prison Service was headquartered in Lagos and headed by a director responsible for administering nearly 400 facilities. All of these facilities since 1975 came under federal control. The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for the formulations and implementation of penal policies in Nigeria. He is assisted by six Deputy Controllers-General (DCGs) who head the six broad administrative divisions called Directorates into which the Service is broken for efficient management.
They are Operations, Administration Personnel Management Training and Supplies, Health and Social Welfare, Finance, Inmates Training and Productivity, and Works and Logistics. The Deputy Controller Generals who head the Directorates report directly to the Chief Executive Officer (Country data . com). In 1989 the prison staff was reported to be 18,000, an apparent decrease from the 23,000 level in 1983. The average daily prison population in 1976 was nearly 26,000, a 25 percent increase from 1975.
Forty years ater, Nigeria’s prison population total is 46,000, of which some 30,000 are awaiting trial. Like most prisons over crowding is the number one problem, however, unlike U. S. prison system Nigeria’s state governors have had talks to execute death row inmates to ease overcrowding. “More than three of every five prison inmates in Nigeria have not been convicted of any offense; instead they wait years for their trial in appalling conditions,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher. There are currently more than 870 death row inmates, including women and juveniles.
Amnesty International research shows that many death row prisoners may be innocent as Nigeria’s justice systems have flaws. Many have been sentenced to death after blatantly unfair trials. Trials can take more than ten years to conclude. Appeals in some death row cases have been pending for a decade. Some never happen because case files have been lost. International law prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, yet in Nigeria juvenile offenders continue to be sentenced to death.
Privatization is not an option in Nigeria’s correctional system due to political monopoly. Nigeria’s prison system, as in most Third World countries, is inadequate. There is no systematic classification of prisoners. Young, old, suspects for minor of minor offenses are intermixed with dangerous and deranged criminals. Prison Life Nigeria’s prisons are filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated. Approximately 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial most of whom have been waiting for their trial for years.
Living conditions in the prisons are appalling. They are damaging to the physical and mental well-being of inmates and in many cases constitute clear threats to health. Conditions such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of food and medicines and denial of contact with families and friends fall short of UN standards for the treatment of prisoners. The worst conditions constitute ill-treatment. In many Nigerian prisons inmates sleep two to a bed or on the floor in filthy cells. Toilets are blocked and overflowing or simply nonexistent, and there is no running water. As a result, disease is widespread.
Most prisons have small clinics or sick bays which lack medicines, and in many prisons inmates have to pay for their own medicines. Guards frequently demand that inmates pay bribes for such privileges’ as visiting the hospital, receiving visitors, contacting their families and, in some cases, being allowed outside their cells at all. Prisoners with money may be even allowed mobile phones, whereas those without funds can be left languishing in their cells. One inmate said: “If you don’t have money, if you come to prison, you will suffer. They collect money from you. It is not right. “(www. ribune. com. ng July 30, 2010).
The Nigerian Prison System emphasizes importance of custody over rehabilitation and, most importantly, sees imprisonment as solely implementing retributive sanctions rather than complementing sentence with rehabilitation. Rehabilitative treatment has never been the declared aims of any sentence. The Prison Act in Nigeria is outdated, and unable to define the purposes of imprisonment. Nigeria’s correctional system is silent on the crucial service of reformation/rehabilitation, and dated in its concept of revenue mobilization.
The resultant structure is inadequate. It focuses on retributive punitive aspect of imprisonment, to the near total neglect of its rehabilitative reformative demands, causing the prison system to witness a high rate of relapse of criminal anti-social behavior and recidivism. The crime level in the wider society continues to rise, with continual increase in prison population resulting in heavier burden on tax payers. Upon my deciding on what country to research, I was shocked, and some what appalled at the many correctional facilities that make the U. S. correctional system seem like a plush vacation home.
I came to realization that these two countries the U. S, and Nigeria are on opposite ends of a spectrum. While both countries struggle with recidivism, and over population of jails, the U. S. have many intermediate sanctions, and prisoners rights, whereas is out dated, can care less about their prisoners, or any sort of community services, or inmate rehabilitation programs. The Nigerian government is simply not complying with its national and international obligations when it comes to the criminal justice system in Nigeria and must begin to do so seriously and urgently (Kregten, Van 2010).