By Dr. Nathaniel Oyinloye
I am not making generalisations about the experience of former inmates in Nigeria or any other country, as each individual’s experience is unique and can be influenced by a variety of factors. However, there are several challenges that many former inmates in Nigeria may face upon their release, which can make reintegration into society and the ability to lead productive lives difficult.
One of those challenges is insufficient rehabilitation programmes. Without proper post-prison support, many inmates may lack access to rehabilitation programmes, which hinder their ability to reintegrate into society. This potentially increases their likelihood of reoffending. There is also the increased risk of recidivism. Without proper support, released prisoners may struggle with the process of reintegration into society, thereby increasing the risk of relapse into criminal behaviour. The Nigerian criminal justice system has been criticised for its high rate of recidivism, which can make it difficult for former inmates to break the cycle of incarceration.
As regards unemployment challenges, insufficient support for employment opportunities may lead to a high unemployment rate among released inmates. This can increase their susceptibility to resort to illegal activities for survival. One other challenge is the strain on community resources. Releasing a large number of individuals without adequate support infrastructure could strain community resources, including social services, employment agencies, and housing assistance. If released inmates face challenges in adapting to civilian life, there is a risk of social unrest, as frustrated individuals may engage in criminal activities out of desperation.
Inadequate support increases the likelihood of released individuals to commit new offences, which can pose threats to public safety and community well-being. Insufficient post-prison support can negatively affect the families of released inmates, as they may struggle to provide the necessary assistance and support for their loved ones. It is also true that released prisoners may face challenges in accessing healthcare and rehabilitation services. This can eventually lead to potential health issues and a higher risk of relapsing into substance abuse.
Limited educational opportunities for released inmates can also hinder their ability to acquire new skills and qualifications. As a result, securing lawful employment may become harder. It is noteworthy that reintegration without proper support may lead to psychological strain on released prisoners. This can exacerbate mental health issues and increase the likelihood of negative outcomes.
Releasing inmates without a robust support system undermines the goals of the criminal justice system, as the intended rehabilitation and reintegration efforts may be compromised. This can perpetuate a cycle of crime and incarceration. Many former inmates in Nigeria come from low-income backgrounds and may struggle to find stable employment or support themselves financially. This kind of situation can make it difficult for them to stay out of trouble.
Overall, the challenges that many former inmates in Nigeria face are complex and multifaceted. Addressing these challenges will require a multi-faceted approach that involves improving the criminal justice system, providing support and resources to former inmates, and addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality. Addressing these issues is crucial for a successful reintegration process and reducing the likelihood of released individuals returning to a life of crime.
Sadly, limited budgetary allocation is one reason Nigeria has yet to deliver an effective correctional service. Inadequate financial resources allocated to the correctional services may hinder the implementation of effective rehabilitation programmes, staff training, and facility improvements. Ageing and overcrowded prison facilities may pose significant obstacles to the delivery of effective correctional services, as they may lack the necessary resources for rehabilitation and inmate education. Insufficient and undertrained correctional staff can impede the delivery of effective services, including rehabilitation efforts, security measures, and overall inmate management.
Also, a lack of comprehensive legal frameworks and policies addressing rehabilitation and reintegration may limit the ability to implement effective correctional strategies. If there are issues of corruption or mismanagement within the correctional services, it can compromise the implementation of effective programmes and initiatives. Ineffective collaboration with other relevant government agencies, NGOs, and community stakeholders can also hinder the holistic approach required for successful rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society.
Oyinloye is the Founder, Hospital and Prison Welfare Initiative
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