The Federal Government, Lagos State Government and Order of the Knight of Saint Mulumba, Lagos Metropolitan Council, on Thursday explored ways to decongest the nation’s Correctional Centres, for improved service delivery.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the deliberation held at an event to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Order of the Knight of Saint Mulumba, with theme as: “Policy Advocacy Conference, Decongestion of Correctional Centres/Status Quo” in Lagos.
The Metro Grand Knight of the Order, Sir William Adebisi, said that the overshooting of the capacity of the nation’s correctional centres by 120 per cent was of concern to the group.
“With not less 74, 000 inmates in the nation’s correctional centres, according to the Minister, adequate service delivery will be elusive.
“The high number of those awaiting trial is alarming and it is responsible for this situation. It should be remedied for decent reform of inmates to take place,” he said.
Adebisi regretted the stoppage of accessibility to inmates by the authorities in recent time.
He said that the group had in the past provided clothing, foods and paid for external examination fees for inmates.
The Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale-Martins said that social dislocation of the society contributed to the over- populated state of correctional centres in the country.
Adewale-Martins described the rehabilitation conditions in the facilities as inhumane. He called on the authorities to fast- track the condition of release of those awaiting trial who have over stayed the number of years they would have served if they had been convicted.
“For one to stay years on awaiting trial is a systemic issue of the criminal justice system of the society and not the fault of the suspect,” he said.
He implored legal officers to routinely go round the facilities and offer services to inmates who had over-stayed to enable them regain freedom. He added that because of the reduced value the society had placed on human life in recent times, contrary to the will of God to mankind, such things have been allowed by the system to continue.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Baba-Usman, said that the challenges of congestion in the correctional facilities were universal.
The IGP, who was represented by CP Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos State Police Commissioner, said that over population of facilities was of huge inconvenience to the inmates on one hand, and stress in managing them by the authorities on the other.
He listed factors that encouraged over population of the facilities to include increase in crime, changing dimensions and patterns of crime, scientific nature of crime such as cyber crime, effects of social dislocation and overburdened criminal justice system among others.
The police boss frowned at the distrust between the operatives and the society. He urged Nigerians to be friendly with the police, saying such would help nip crime in the bud, thereby checking the influx of inmates.
Also speaking at the event, an official of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Lagos State, Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, said that the state would welcome efforts geared toward decongestion of the correctional facilities.
Adeyemi said that various reforms were being undertaken by the state to make the place habitable and render rehabilitation services to inmates before being reintegrated into the society.
The Lagos State DPP Director appealed to lawyers for free services especially to those who could not pay for legal representation.