CAUSES OF PRISON CONGESTION IN NIGERIA PART (I).
By
Shuaibu Lawan,
[email protected]
July 16- 2018

Prison congestion or overcrowding is generally regarded social phenomenon occurring when the demand for prison’s jurisdiction outweighed the capacity for prisoners in a given country. It arises where the number of inmates at a given period of time exceeds the actual capacity originally meant for that prison. Prison congestion become one of the most problems bedevilling Nigerian prisons, it is caused by a number of factors; such as corruption, increase in crime rate, high rate of recidivism, delays in criminal trial, non duplication of files on part of the police, impunity, lack of accountability among the three arms of criminal justice, new criminal offenses added to penal code, poor planning and lack of an accurate population projection and offender need analysis, harsh penalties on simple offenses,  Societal attitude towards ex-convicts among others. These causes, their implication and or effects couple with their possible solutions.

In the tripartite  relationship of criminal justice administration, prison is included. Prison is an institution in which inmates are forcibly confined and denied variety of freedom under the authority of a state. As Ervin Goffman, argued that, prison is a total institution, to be locked up in a physical, psychological, and social sense; a situation in which there is no escape, and the prisoner has no control. The main idea of confining a suspect within prison is not punishment, rather to keep him until final judgment could be carried out.

England is known as the pioneer of modern imprisonment as a result of writings of a philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 19th century. Bentham was against the barbaric system of law, justice and punishment that flourished before 1789. But in Nigeria, modern prison administration can be traced back to the colonial concept of imprisonment in 1861. Prisons were not designated for reformation, rather prisoners were used mainly for public works and other jobs for colonial administration. Thus, Nigerian prisons up to date are suffering from disorganisation, exploitation, callousness and subjugation; contrary to the goal of imprisonment such as reformation, rehabilitation and restoration.

Various reforms programs have been
proposed towards improving the Nigeria prisons. Nevertheless, the menace of the dilapidation state of the Nigerian prisons still poses a concern and requires urgent attention. Nigerian prisons are characterized by overcrowding, widespread of disease, poor ventilation, poor feeding and poor medical attention. Several writers have identified congestion and nonimplementation of prison reforms recommendations as the major challenges confronting the Nigerian prisons.

Presidential committee on prison decongestion revealed that (29,372), inmates out of (41,524), inmates are awaiting trial. Many cells meant to accommodate about 50 inmates were found to accommodate about 150 inmates; all cramped together. According to Njoku, the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos, is overcrowded by 250 percent. The prison, which was built for 956 inmates, is today occupied by over 3,600 inmates of which majority of the inmates awaiting trial. Amnesty International also exposed the appalling state of Nigeria’s prison system. The report revealed how at least 75 percent of Nigeria’s inmates have never been convicted of any crime, with some awaiting trial for up to ten years. In addition, discovered that most prisoners are too poor to afford a lawyer and how the appalling prison conditions have seriously damaging effect on the mental and physical health of the inmates.

Analysis to be continued.

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