Prisons are essentially a correctional institution, and by definition; “A building or facility in which people are legally held as punishment for a crime they have committed or while awaiting trial”.
From the first aspect of the definition, we can deduce that prisons are a place of punishment for crime committed, and if we go on to stretch the definition further we can also imply prisons to be a place of correction and reform with the overall intent of re-integrating the individual back into the society as a changed person.
The broad intention of holding individuals in prison after committing a crime is to deter them from committing same or similar offence once their sentence is over, and this broader intention is the major reason for this article.
The Nigerian Prisons Service by personal assessment and general observation seems to have fallen short of this broader intention of deterring criminals from committing the same crimes that took them to prison in the first place. If for nothing or anything at all, they seem to have produced more hardened criminals than less, after prison sentences.
Some of the major reasons individuals are inclined to commit misdeeds include, laziness, influence from bad company, desperation for quick wealth, a general sense of hopelessness and resignation, amongst others. One way to reform and address some of these proclivities and in particular, the twin malaise of laziness and desperation for quick wealth is proper exposure to enterprise and industry during the period of confinement.
The Prisons Service should seek external, inter-government and private sector participation and assistance in prisoner’s reforms. This can be done or achieved by seeking a form of collaboration. An alliance, that would see government institutions and industrial giants in the private sector opening the doors of internship for inmates with medium to long-term sentences to come in, learn, work and be exposed to useful endeavor, under a certified process that would make them employable after their incarceration terms are completed.
The areas of activity should be ventures with long-term sustainability which should include and not be limited to; government and private owned farms, farm plantations, feed mills and fertilizer blending plants, chemicals, paints and allied products industry, foam and mattress manufacturing, automobile assembly, fixing, repair & servicing and a host of others. To even take it a step further, the partner institutions should also as a means of further inducement and encouragement open slots for employment to the top performing inmates, after the cycle of internship.
Once this alliance is successfully achieved, and inmate internship programs are successfully and diligently implemented across various institutions, reforms would start to take place in the minds of the convicts, and they are bound to have a shift in perspective, away from seeing crime as a means of income, wealth and survival. Also, when inmates are taken through the discipline and rigors that comes with enterprise, there would be less incentive to be repeat offenders or commit the same crimes that took them to prison.
Also their desire to be diligent during their training would be enhanced, against the fore-knowledge that employment opportunities would exist for the best performing interns.
If this kind of initiative abounds and maybe several others, I can say with considerable conviction, and I believe it would be same for many others, that the Prisons Service would have scored a high on her mandate of properly reforming those who out of indiscretion and other vices towed the undignified path of crime.