Friday, 14 October 2016

The Inmate's Home: Nigeria’s Prison Capacity

The Inmate's Home: Nigeria’s Prison Capacity

Nelson Mandela once said that “ one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”.

They may have lost their freedom but they are still human beings who still have certain rights -  limited rights. They should be treated with dignity. That is why they are fed, clothed and even trained in vocational skills to make positive impact after serving their sentence.

 We have had great men who have spent years in prison and still come out to serve their countries and add value to humanity. Former Nigerian and South African Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Nelson Mandela respectively are typical examples. I strongly believe that proper treatment of inmates begins with  where they sleep – the bed. Every human being no matter how busy they are and have been must surely rest. It is inherent in human beings to rest and rest well. Prisoners should not be denied that.

Nigeria's Prison History
The declaration of Lagos as a colony by Britain in 1861 gave rise to formation of a police force starting with 25 constables and in 1863, four courts which needed the prisons to complete the justice system. The first prison to be established in Lagos had an initial inmate capacity of 300.

In an April 2016 report, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) gave the total number of bed space available in Nigeria’s prison to be at 56,153 while the total number of prison inmates as march 2016 was 63, 142. That means there are precisely 6989 more inmates than Nigeria’s prisons have room for.

The Daily Trust cited the Nigerain Prison Service(NPS) to have 240 prisons nationwide as at October 2014 with most of them in the South. The maximum and medium or satellite prisons are the main categories in operation.

 Top 5 Capacity Prisons
Statistics shows that Lagos, Borno, Kaduna, Adamawa and Edo top the list in terms of capacity.

Nigeria’s 5 Least Capacity Prisons
The prisons in the country with the least capacities are located in the south with bed spaces below 600. Ekiti and Bayelsa states have the least capacities with 200 each. Does it mean that these states have low crime rates?

Major Regions
Statistics show that the northern part of the country has 8,747 more bed space than the southern part.

Geo-political Zones
Below is a breakdown of prison capacities according to the six geo-political zones in the country.
North-West(NW): 11,000
North-East(NE): 10,938
North-Central(NC): 7,512
South-South(SS): 7,540
South-East(SS): 5,054
South-West(SW): 7,383

The statistics here have therefore shown that the Nigeria’s prison capacity is inadequate to cater for its prison population. Also, the northern part of the country has more bed spaces to accommodate more prison inmates than the southern part.

It would still be too early to conclude that the number of prisons in a location is an indication of the crime rate in that area. Several factors are involved before one comes to such conclusion. The role of efficient data collection by judicial agencies such as the Nigerian Police and Prison Service and the interpretation of such data will be most useful in the administration of the justice.

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