The Nigerian Prison Service (now referred to as the Nigerian Correctional centre/facility) is an indispensable Department of the Federal Ministry of Interior and is headed by a Comptroller General of the correctional facilities. However, right from inception, there seems to be palpable disenchantment among officers and men of the Nigeria Prisons Services and concerned Nigerians due to cases of prison congestion, inadequate funding of prison, flaw on the extant prison laws, and lack of rehabilitative and correctional equipment in the Nigeria prison.
The prison population in Nigeria has been often described as a "mixed grill” (in terms of composition) 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 waiting trial or being remanded in custody. Over the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the Nigerian prison population; by July 1990, the average monthly inmate population was 54,000 while the total prison capacity was only 31,000, resulting in an overcrowding figure of 74.2 percent.
An in-depth assessment of research carried by Osondi indicates that there is an ever-increasing problems of prison administration, like poor funding, prison congestion and the failure of the extant prison laws to address the major objective for establishing prison and rehabilitation of the prison inmates. This has continued to constitute a cog in the wheel of success in the Nigeria prisons. The funding of the system has been on the decline, coupled with continued increase of prison inmates, leading to prison congestion. The prison administration has equally been confronted with cases of corruption among few high-ranking officers, not minding the small resources made available for the management of the prison by the federal government. Staff, especially the rank and file, (non-commissioned officers) is becoming disgruntled in the discharge of their duties as a result of lack of incentive to boost their morale. The prison system, which ideally should have been solely for correction of prison inmates through counselling, rehabilitations and reform of inmates, has paradoxically become a breeding ground for hardened criminals who become worse than they were when they got into prison. This could be attributed to the over emphasis on punishment and not rehabilitation by the act that established prison system.
From Prison to Correctional Centers
As part of strategic measures to reform the country’s Prisons Service, President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed into law a bill that changes the name of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS). This was announced by his aide on National Assembly. Consequent upon the foregoing, the new Act repeals the Nigeria Prison Services (NPS) Act.
Correctional Service, according to the Act, consists of two main faculties – Custodial Service and Non-Custodial Service. Custodial Service would take custody and control of persons legally interned in SAFE, SECURE AND HUMANE CONDITIONS. It also has a mandate to convey remanded persons to and from courts in motorized formations; identify the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours among inmates; conduct risk and needs assessment with a view to developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration. It equally has the responsibility to implement reformation and rehabilitation programmes that would enhance the reintegration of inmates into the society.
The Custodial Service is equally in charge of initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counselling services for offenders, including violent extremists. It is also mandated to empower inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes. It is further expected to facilitate incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms, industries, borstal (meant to reform young people) and related institutions. This is in addition to facilitating the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial.