The Director-General of Prison Rehabilitation Mission International (PREMI), Bishop Kayode Williams, has commended the presidential assent to the Nigeria Correctional Services Act.
According to him, there is a powerful force behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s action, particularly the renaming of the Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigeria Correctional Service.
“Prison doesn’t reform people, they will tell you their duty is to reform. How will they reform?” the clergyman questioned on Thursday during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
He said, “When you talk of prison, prison is confinement where people are kept for custody and if you look at the crest of the prison service, you will see keys as their symbol – two keys which show that the main target of the prison officers is to open and lock a prisoner.
“When you talk about correctional service, you want to educate the people. You don’t just lock them, keep them there; you want to reform them, you want to change their way of life before, you sincerely want to believe that these people can become productive. Because it is no more prison now, I am a happy man today.”
A Five-Star Hotel
Bishop Williams, however, said the implementation of the Act should not just be about the change of name but affect the operations of the service as a whole.
He noted that he was once in Netherlands and Poland where prisons were closed down and turned into “a five-star hotel”.
The PREMI DG said there is a need to train prison officers who are now correctional workers and sensitise them on issues of correctional services.
“It is different from the system they are coming from and that is why I’m congratulating the President for taking the bull by the horn, it’s not easy,” he noted.
The cleric added, “I am telling you that the aim of the prison authority is to keep a criminal behind the bar and lock him up like an animal in the zoo because they believe he cannot do well, he is sent here to be punished for the wrong he has done.
“But when you say correctional, you are sending the inmate to a correctional service. There’s nobody that cannot change, you need somebody who can show the face of a human being in talking to an offender.
“He has offended, he has done wrong, he has been a killer before, he has done so many evil things; but you want to change him, two wrongs cannot make a right. You cannot just chain him down, chain his hands, push food to him. A correctional officer will sit down with an inmate and talk to him.”
The society, according to Bishop Williams, keeps the convicted fellows off from the system which makes them hardened.
He urged the government to address the issue, stressing that the public needed to be sensitised about discriminating against ex-convicts.
The bishop noted that he once served a jail term for about a decade, reiterating that the presidential assent to the Act has given him joy.
“I have been in prison for 10 years and that is why I’m happy today that in my lifetime, the name prison can be removed and a correctional institute substituted by Mr President.
“The bill that was signed into law by Mr President yesterday (Wednesday) was categorised into two categories. There is going to be segregation now that it is a correctional institute because you cannot be correcting an awaiting trial.
“A man who is not guilty is still on trial, why should you mingle him with hardened offenders? You are first of all going to try him so there is going to be a segregation of inmates,” said Bishop Williams.