Correctional Service, CSO Urge Joint Action Against Ex- Convicts Stigma
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) has urged Nigerians to speak up for zero stigma and discrimination against people who have been convicted and reintegrated to the society
The Controller General, NCoS, Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed made the call at an annual lecture on crime prevention, control and prisoner’s welfare in Nigeria organised by Shamies Heart Foundation, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) on Thursday in Abuja.
Ahmed, who was represented by Assistant Controller General of corrections (ACG), Mr Peter Pevigo, said that reintegration of inmates was a major challenge of the service.
He said that the call became imperative as those formerly alleged to be associated with prisons or convictions were now faced with stigmatisation and discrimination by the public.
“Everyone has the right to be treated with respect, to live free from stigmatisation, discrimination and abuse.
“But you know our people, once you are arrested, they believe that you are involved,” he said.
Ahmed said that the public also need to help the service carry out its mandate effectively by accepting the inmates that have finished their jail terms, saying that it would also help decongest the centres across the country.
”Many people return to crime when they are rejected in the society and find themselves behind bars again and this have made the custodial centres congested.
“A situation where one is out of the centres and return to his or her family but rejected because he was charged for a crime he may have truly committed or not, this would cause depression or even make such person go into committing more crimes hereby landing in the prison again,” he said.
The CG said that NCoS would in the long run hopefully experience drastic reduction in the number of inmates sent to its centres.
“The public will on the other hand broaden their horizon of understanding on the operations of the service and render assistance in such areas as may be necessary for smooth and healthy administration of the service and improved welfare of inmates,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Director, Shamies Foundation, Ms Saratu Abdul, said that the plights of prisoners and Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP) in Nigeria was pitiful.
According to her, prisons decongestion is one of the most important and effective ways to ensure effective prisons reform.
She regretted that no fewer than 70 per cent of inmates in correctional centres were ATP, adding that the condition under which many of them were kept was nothing to write home about.
”Most worrisome is the legal detention centres which are springing up all round the country.
“We strongly believe things can change if polices are put in place and properly implemented,” she said.
Abdul urged stakeholders, civil society organisations, state governments and religious leaders to promote programmes aimed at changing the mindset of people to enhance protection for inmates that were reintegrated into the society.
Executive Secretary, National Human Right Commission (NHRC), Mr Tony Ojukwu, said that crime and insecurity leads to violations of human rights.
According to Ojukwu, who was represented by Mr Hyginus Njoku, member NHRC, a nation with high rate of crime and insecurity will never enjoy the benefit of the fundamental Human Right.
”Therefore, the need to proffer solution to curb crime and insecurity is of great importance.
“The commission in continuous struggle for the protection, promotion, enforcement and accountability for human rights and justice for all in many occasions has advocated for polices ensuring that NCoS centres fulfil their mandate which will help prevent crime and improve our criminal justice system.”
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the event was ”Crime, security and criminal justice system, challenges and future for Nigeria.”
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