Prison Inmates
Prison Inmates

Imperative of Decongesting Nigeria’s Custodial Centres

EMERGENCY DIGEST- In the last few decades, there has been a steady rise in the population of inmates in Nigerian correctional centers, due to corresponding increase in the rate of crimes, across the country. A report showed that as of 1990, the average monthly inmate population was 54,000, while the total prison capacity was only 31,000, thus, resulting in an overcrowding figure of about 74.2 percent.

According to Rob Allen, a consultant on prison, probation, and youth justice, overcrowding is defined as the percentage of the occupancy rate that is greater than 100 per cent. The percentage of inmates held by a correctional facility defines the facility’s occupancy rate and how overcrowded it is.

The prison population in Nigeria is described as a “mixed grill” of adult males and females, young persons, criminal and civil lunatics, pregnant women, debtors, detainees, and first offenders. More than 60 percent of prison admissions are awaiting trial or being remanded in custody. Presently, Nigeria’s Correction facilities (NCS) are overcrowded by 37%, whereby 7 out of 10 inmates are awaiting trial.

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As of October 4, 2021 the NCS data on the Summary of Inmate Population by Convict and Persons Awaiting Trial revealed that their facilities hold 37% more inmates, than it is designed to.

Meanwhile, scholars and pundits have identified the factors responsible for overcrowding in correctional centers. These include; delays in the administration of justice, overuse of prison sentences by judges, over-criminalization, and lack of adequate resources to build new prisons. Some side effects that inmates have experienced as a result of overcrowding include damage to physical and mental health (including post-traumatic stress disorders after release) and gross violation of human rights.

A report released by the Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reiterated the fact that overcrowding in correctional facilities is due to inmates serving time without being sentenced. The report also highlighted flaws in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, especially such that the correction facilities are inadequate to accommodate the number of prisoners or detainees sent in from the courts. Additionally, these prisoners are held in very crowded and appalling conditions.

Therefore, it is high time that the government and other concerned authorities stop treating the issue of congestion in Nigerian custodial centers with levity. Plausible measure to be taken include; the adoption of an alternative form of punishment that is non-custodial measures, which are restorative and transformative in nature.  The restorative and transformative justice approaches will require first time offenders receive intervention that would help them not to commit crime again. Such intervention can be in the form of providing the person with useful employment that would help the ex-convict maintain a meaningful life after release from prison.

Similarly, families of inmates should be given adequate group counseling on how to relate cordially with the ex-convicts upon release from detention. This is very vital in building a strong and closely connected support group that encourages the decrease in the chances of the ex-convict committing crime again.

Believe you me, a holistic implementation as well as adhering strictly to these recommendations will definitely facilitates the decongestion of Nigerian correctional facilities, scattered across the country.




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