Institutional Framework for decongestion of Prison
The flagrant violations of laws by persons in authority and who has the mandate to protect and enforce the law are frustrating and inimical to achieving the goals of decongestion of detention centres as envisaged by the laws. Where the institutions saddled with the responsibility of enforcing strong and effective mechanisms and frameworks of the criminal justice system are riddled with ineptitude and high handedness, then there is a threat to the development of such a nation.
The Nigeria Police Force
The Nigeria Police Force is a paramilitary federal institution established by the Police Act 2020 whose operation is under the control of the President of the country. The Nigeria Police Force is the first point of call or the initiator of every judicial system.
Within the CJS, the police is referred to as the gatekeeper since they set in motion a criminal case. Within the category of the Nigeria Police are other similar organizations like Nigeria Customs Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Immigration Services, etc.
Just like every other sector in Nigeria, the Nigeria Police Force is grappling with so many challenges ranging from corruption to poor management of its facilities. Some of the responsibilities of the Nigeria Police Force include the arrest and detection of crimes, investigation and prosecution of offenders.
Upon the completion of investigation and the referral of a criminal matter to the court by the police, the next principal actor in the CJS is the court. The courts being the second actor of the CJS is mandated to hear and determine matters brought before it by the police. This is to determine the guilt or otherwise of the offender brought before it.
The courts are expected to do substantial justice based on the evidence presented before by the parties. Where after hearing the matters, the court is of the opinion that that a case has been substantially proven against the offender, it may take further steps to impose the necessary punishment required by law.
However, where no case is established against the offender, the court is at liberty to discharge and acquit the alleged offender in line with the provisions and dictates of the laws. The courts are seen as the epitome of justice and they must ensure that justice and fairness are done to all parties before it.
In Nigeria, the courts are ranked based on their jurisdiction and the extent of their powers to administer substantial justice to all parties concerned. The courts include in some cases, the Area courts, the Magistrate courts, the High courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. It is the expectation of these courts to administer the laws of Nigeria in order to ensure the decongestion of the various detention centre in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Correctional Service
The Nigeria Correctional Service is the body responsible for taking into custody persons who are accused of committing offence and who have been ordered by the courts to be remanded or imprisoned.
The Nigeria Correctional Service was before the year 2019 referred to as the Nigeria Prison Service. The Nigeria Correctional Service has been faced with several pressing issues like inadequate facilities, faulty vehicles to transport inmates to court, poor funding, corruption amongst prison officials, overcrowding in the prisons etc.
The prison system has been so destroyed as it has failed in the purpose for which it was created. The prison system has been a harbinger of violence and other forms of ill vices. Persons who have served certain terms or who have at certain times been to prisons have turned out worse than they went in.
The Nigeria Correctional Service is one of the major actors of the CJS and it is expected to carryout out its functions diligently. However, that cannot be possible if the needed incentives are not provided to enable it to perform its functions appropriately. The failure of the Nigeria Correctional Service to be well motivated and catered for has led to the congestion of the centres. Only inmates that are referred to as VIP inmates are given the required attention.
Where the operational vehicles are not properly serviced by the government, cases of congestion at the detention centres are imminent. It will only give opportunity to inmates who have the means to facilitate their going to courts. This will deny inmates without the means from obtaining justice and fairness as anticipated by the laws.