Prison Administration In Southwestern Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

Prison Administration In Southwestern Nigeria

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The origin of prisons within the context of world history may be examined in three major phases namely the ancient times, the Middle Age and the Contemporary era. During the ancient times, the evolution of prisons can be traced back to the rise of state as a form of social organization. Corresponding with the advent of the state was the development of written language, which enabled the creation of formalized legal codes as official guidelines for the society. The most well known of these early legal codes is the Code of Hammurabi, written in Babylon around 1750 BC. The penalties for violations of the laws in Hammurabi’s Code were almost exclusively centered on the concept of “the law of retaliation” where people were punished as a form of vengeance, often by the victims themselves. This notion of punishment as vengeance or retaliation can also be found in many other legal codes from early civilizations, including the ancient Sumerian codes, the Indian Manama Dharma Astra and the Mosaic Code (Roth 2006).

Some Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato, began to develop ideas of using punishment to reform offenders instead of simply using it as retribution. Imprisonment as a penalty was used initially for those who could not afford to pay their fines. Eventually, since impoverished Athenians could not pay their fines, leading to indefinite periods of imprisonment, time limits were set instead. The prison in Ancient Athens was known as the desmoterion “place of chains”. The Romans were among the first to use prisons as a form of punishment, rather than simply for detention (McClennan, 2008). A variety of existing structures were used to house prisoners, such as metal cages, basements of public buildings, and quarries. One of the most notable Roman prisons was the Mamertime Prison, established around 640 B.C. by Ancus Marcius. The Mamertime Prison was located within a sewer system beneath ancient Rome, and contained a large network of dungeons where prisoners were held in squalid conditions, contaminated with human waste. Forced labor on public works projects was also a common form of punishment. In many cases, citizens were sentenced to slavery, often in “ergastula” (a primitive form of prison where unruly slaves were chained to workbenches and performed hard labour) (Roberts, 2004).

During the Middle Age in Europe, castles, fortresses, and the basements of public buildings were often used as makeshift prisons. The possession of the right and the capability to imprison citizens, however, granted an air of legitimacy to officials at all levels of government, from kings to regional courts to city councils; and the ability to have someone imprisoned or killed served as a signifier of who in society possessed power or authority over others.Another common punishment was sentencing people to galley slavery where they were chained together in the bottoms of ships and forced to row on naval or merchant vessels (McClennan, 2008).

Punishment was usually consisted of physical forms, including capital punishment, mutilation, and whipping, branding, and non-physical punishments, such as public shaming rituals like the stocks.From the Middle Ages up to the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, imprisonment was rarely used as a punishment in its own right, and prisons were mainly to hold those awaiting trial and convicts awaiting punishment. However, an important innovation at the time was the Bridewell House of Corrections, located at Bridewell Palace in London, which resulted in the building of other houses of corrections. These houses held mostly petty offenders, vagrants, and the disorderly local poor. In these facilities, inmates were given jobs, and through prison labor they were taught how to work for a living. By the end of the 17th century, houses of correction were absorbed into local prison systems under the control of the local justice of the peace.

From about 18th century, popular resistance to public execution and torture became more pronounced both in Europe and in the United States. In particular, the death penalty for petty crimes such as theft was proving increasingly unpopular with the public, and many jurors were refusing to convict defendants of petty crimes when they knew they would be sentenced to death. Rulers began looking for means to punish and control their subjects in a way that did not cause people to associate them with the outlook of tyrannical and sadistic violence. (The Reformer, 2010). They developed systems of mass incarceration, often with hard labour, as a solution. The prison reform movement that arose at this time was heavily influenced by two somewhat contradictory philosophies. The first was based on Enlightenment ideas of utilitarianism and rationalism, and suggested that prisons should simply be used as a more effective substitute for public corporal punishments such as whipping, hanging and so on. This theory, often referred to as deterrence, claims that the primary purpose of prisons is to be so harsh and terrifying that they deter people from committing crime out of fear of going to prison. The second theory, which saw prisons as a form of rehabilitation or moral reform, was based on religious ideas that equated crime with sin, and saw prisons as a place to instruct prisoners in Christian morality, obedience and proper behaviour. These later reformers believed that prisons could be constructed as humane institutions of moral instruction, and that prisoners’ behaviour could be reformed after prison term (Rhodes, 2004).

According to Okunola (2008), in 1861, Lagos was proclaimed as a colony and the colonial authorities were anxious to protect legitimate trade and missionary activities as well as colonial interests of ensuring law and order and tax collection. Thus, a police force of about 25 constables was constituted with four courts established. This gave rise to the need for the establishment of a prison for the purpose of punishing offenders and not necessarily to reform them. Under this arrangement, there were no formal prison staff, only policemen performed prison duties. Thereafter, ex-servicemen were recruited for the job. However 1934 witnessed effort at mordernising the prison service in Nigeria whereby moral and adult education classes were organised for prisoners (Okunola, 2008).

In Nigeria, the abolition of Native Authority prisons in 1968 and the subsequent unification of the Prisons Service in Nigeria therefore marked the beginning of Nigerian Prisons Service as a composite reality. Prior to this, the prisons in the North were under the general supervision of the Northern Inspector General of Police who was ex-officio Director of Prisons. In the same vain the Director of Prisons was in charge of the prisons in the south. The Gobir report put an end to all that. As a consequence of that report Native Authority prisons were abolished with effect from 1st April, 1968. However, due to the vagaries of the civil war then raging in the country, it was not until 1971 that the government white paper on the reorganization of the prisons was released (Aboki, 2007).

It was followed in 1972 by Decree No.9 of 1972 which spelt out the goals and orientation of the Nigerian Prisons Service. The Prisons Service was charged with taking custody of those legally detained, identifying causes of their behaviour and retraining them to become useful citizens in the society (Woolford, 2009). Though the Decree makes secure custody the first role of the prisons, it also makes it explicit that reform and rehabilitation are the ultimate aims of the Prisons Service. And to achieve this objective, the administration of the prisons became streamlined. The service which had hitherto been generally administered under one Director, now had in addition to the Director “three principal agencies or divisions performing different roles to enable (the prisons) execute its programme expeditiously and achieve its goal.

Following from this was the need to employ skilled manpower especially in the Social Welfare Unit. To this end, between 1974 and 1980, a group of officers, mostly pivotal teachers were recruited as social welfare officers to take on adjustment-related programmes and rehabilitation of prisoners. In addition, professional Nurses and Doctors were recruited to beef up the medical staff strength as well as expertise. Besides, between 1972 and 1974, a number of graduates were recruited into the Service as general duty officers to see to the day to day running of the Prisons (Woolford, 2009).

There have been massive transformations in the Service since 1972. It has undergone some reorganization from its modest three Directorates in 1980 to six Directorates in 1993. There was the 1986 reorganization of the Prisons consequent upon the creation of the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Board and centralization of the administrations of these paramilitary Services in the Board. There was also the removal of the Services from the Civil Service in 1992. It now has a command structure that boasts of 8 Zonal commands, 36 State Commands, 1 FCT Command, 155 Prisons including farm centres and 83 Satellite Prisons. It also has four Training Schools, one Staff College and 3 Borstal Institutions.

The Nigerian prison system derives its relevance from three forms of penal legislation which operate alongside each other in Nigeria, the Penal Code and the accompanying Criminal Procedure Code Cap 81 Laws of the Federation 1990; the Criminal Code and the accompanying Criminal Procedure Act Cap 80 Laws of the Federation 1990 and the Sharia penal legislation in 12 northern states (which applies to only Muslim members of these states). By its establishment philosophy, the Nigerian Prisons Service is an institution meant to administer penal treatment to adult offenders. Its importance is in the bid to reduce crime in the society. On the basis of imprisonment policy, the Nigerian Prisons Service was established to manage criminals in prison yards. This constitutional functions empower the prison operatives to:

  • Keep convicted offenders (prisoners) in safe custody
  • Keep awaiting trial inmates in custody, until law courts demand their production
  • Punish offenders as prescribed by the law courts
  • Reform the convicted prisoners

Rehabilitate and re-integrate prisoners who have completed the sentences in the prison. Annual Report (2012)
Inferring from the above, the main aim of establishing the prison institution in all parts of the world including Nigeria is to provide a rehabilitation and correctional facility for those who have violated the rules and regulations of their society. However, the extent to which this maxim is true in practice has been a subject of controversy. Instances abound where the prisons have become a training ground for criminals instead of rehabilitation home in Nigeria (Obioha 2011). The worry about the manifestation that Nigerian Prisons Service has not lived up to expectation in terms of impacting positively on the lives and vocations of inmates has raised several questions that have not yet been completely addressed on the system’s functions and existence.

It is against this background that this study is considered pertinent in order to inquire into the whole process of and administration of the Nigerian prison which are crucial to the actualisation of the corporate goal of the Nigerian Prisons Service.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The prison system is an integral component of the whole process of criminal justice system (Ogunwumiju, 2013). If it is inefficient and ineffective, the efforts of the other agencies involved in this all-important process will not consummate and this will spell doom for the society because plethora of criminal conducts will not only go on unabated, such will aggravate by the day.

Indeed, the primary concern of the Nigerian Prisons Service is summed up in its motto which is “Protect Society; Reform the Prisoner” as further expatiated into such responsibilities including taking lawful custody of adjudged offenders and producing them in courts as required, examining the causes of their anti-social dispositions and exposing them to suitable and beneficial training. Annual Report, 2012.

However, issues have been raised on security of lives and property of the citizens, safe custody of inmates, prison congestion, unavailability of detainees in court resulting in adjournment of cases, unhygienic and dilapidated prison environment sometimes resulting in epidemics ill treatment of inmates resulting in recidivism, low level of training on meaningful undertakings occasioning failure in rehabilitation and proper integration into the society after prison terms (Ogunwumiju, 2013).

Invariably, all of these issues cannot be isolated from the dynamics involved in prison administration in Nigeria which is characterized by the system failure identified with the key players such as the police and the judiciary, which are saddled with collaborative roles in achieving effective prison administration. With these key players generally being indicted of corruption and the Nigeria police specifically being alleged of ineptitude especially as regards investigations of cases, the judiciary also being accused of perennial delay in criminal trials as well as the Nigeria Prisons Service itself being undermined by shortcomings such as undue political interference, inadequate facilities, irregular and inadequate training for staff and inmates, the Nigerian prison system might have been eroded (Emeka, 2011).

The drive to re-position the Nigerian Prisons Service for an improved service delivery in concert with other key players involved in prison administration in Nigeria has therefore necessitated this study. This is particularly imperative as there are concerns over non abatement of these irregularities even in recent times.

1.2.1 Research Questions

The following research questions, among others, serve as a guide to the study,

To what extent has the Nigerian Prisons Service achieved the objectives for which it was established?
How adequate and efficient are the institutions put in place for the purpose of prison administration in Nigeria?
What are the challenges being faced by the Nigerian prison system?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

Generally, this study examines prison administration in Southwestern Nigeria.

The specific objectives of the study are to

  1. Examine the objectives of establishing the Nigerian Prisons Service;
  2. Identify the machinery put in place to achieve the objectives of establishing the Nigerian Prisons Service;
  3. Analyse the challenges confronting the Nigerian Prisons Service in Southwestern 08074422059Nigeria; and
  4. Assess the level of performance of the Nigerian Prisons Service in Southwestern Nigeria.

1.4 Hypotheses/Assumptions of the Study

Hypothesis One

The objective of establishing the Nigerian Prisons Service is not adequate and achievable.

Hypothesis Two

Key players in prison administration in Nigeria such as the Police the Courts and the Prison Service do not harmoniously relate to achieve the corporate goal of the prison system in Nigeria.

Hypothesis Three

Inadequacies like lack of political will, inadequate facilities and poor training have not culminated into cases of prison congestion, jail break and poor living condition of prison inmates in Southwestern Nigeria.

Hypothesis Four

The Nigerian prison system has not considerably impacted on the reformation of prisoners.

1.5 Scope of the Study

This study covers the prison administration in Southwestern Nigeria with its scope limited to three prisons within the study area. These are the Kirikiri Maximum Prison (Lagos State), Ile-Ife Medium Prison (Osun State) and Ibara Borstal Home (Ogun State) within Southwestern Nigeria.

1.6 Justification for / Significance of the Study

The study is significant in its intense concern with respect to the disconnect between the motive of institutionalising the prison system which is that of correction and not punishment which the system obviously manifests.

It will also advance the frontiers of knowledge in the area of profound impact which the prison system exerts on the security of lives and properties of the citizens and reformation of the prisoners as orchestrated not only by the Nigerian Prisons Service but also other collaborative institutions.

1.7 Definition of Terms

The section contains the definition of terms which are used in this study and the content in which they are used.

a. Administration:

Administration implies the process of coming together of two or more people to achieve a predetermined objective. It is a process of getting things done through people.

b. Prison:

Prison refers to any officially designated place usually fortified for the purpose of confinement of persons considered guilty of offence in order to punish, correct and rehabilitate such persons.

c. Inmates:

Inmates are used to refer to the category of persons whose custody is restricted to the prison as a result of their guilt and conviction.

d. Reformation:

Reformation is the process involved in re-orientating the offender who is in prison custody with the view to making him abandon his criminal inclination and adjust to an acceptable mode of behaviour in the society.

e. Rehabilitation:

Rehabilitation entails the process involved in supporting the prisoner who has just completed his term of imprisonment to re-settle and be re-integrated into the society in order for him to live a normal life. The process often includes skill acquisition and financial assistance.

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