“…My solution now is that they should waste me, what I mean by wasting is that they should kill me. Because I know, if they send me to prison, I will be hard more. Instead of the police sending me back to prison, they should waste me; I’m ready for it…”
In an interview section released by Punch news agency on their YouTube video, Adeniyi Ajayi says he prefers to be shot dead than being sent back to prison. It is in the light of this statement we will be discussing as well as analyzing the reality of imprisonment and the behavioural outcomes of ex-convicts post their release from prison.
With respect to the primary objectives that motivated the creation of the prisons worldwide, the prison is meant to keep convicted lawbreakers away from the society for a specific period of time as well as ensure they become better citizens in the society upon their release but it is rather unfortunate that we have not seen more of this genuine intention of the prison’s reform system play out in the lives of individuals post their release from prison.
Adeniyi Ajayi represents most prison inmates across the nation; one among thousands who went into prison and unavoidably became worse than he was before his incarceration. There has been no confirmed record from the Nigerian prisons on the exact number of ex-convicts who end up right back in prison but from what we can easily observe from our societies; with the ever-increasing crime rate, it is quite glaring that a very large percentage of prisoners go into the prison only to become hardened than they ever were and end up being caught and imprisoned again.
That begs us answering the question of why? The prison was basically made to try and reform these persons and enable them to live peacefully back in the society after their release but the opposite is always the case; So why has the Nigerian prison become a place people go to and become harder and even worse than they ever were? If this is so rampant like most of us see in the streets why haven’t we decided to think and consider this as a serious issue that is worth our time and attention?
So let us carefully analyze Adeniyi’s case and try to see why an apprehended criminal whose offence wasn’t punishable by death was rather asking for death because he was sure he would come out worse and wasn’t ready to disrupt the country than it already is.
I would start by highlighting the fact that Adeniyi clearly stated that prior to his first incarceration, he had not gone into arm robbery, he only stole properties; phones as he would later reveal. According to him, he “got the brain” (leant the concept of arm robbery right in prison). His modus operandi was to break into victim’s homes, ordering them to cooperate with him or risk being killed by his other imaginary gang members who he claimed was around just to give victims the impression that he was not alone.
So we can clearly see the irony in his case. Someone who was jailed because he stole a phone came out only to have become a terrible armed robber and rapist; an act he learnt right in prison. We can see a total failure in the intentions of the prisons correctional facilities here and we can as well only imagine how many more like him are still there in prisons; that has become a worse version of themselves upon their incarceration and waiting to come out to practice and continue what they have learnt.
Why this article is not in any way promoting crime or blaming anybody for the rather unfortunate increment and incarceration in the country lately, it is a call for every one of us to become interested at least in possible solutions to this because at some point or the other they affect us, we have vulnerable family members out there who might some come in contact with these persons someday; we equally have family members who are policemen, prison warders and have to deal with such people daily. We see these people; we see these things.
Recidivism has adverse effects on the prisons system and the entire society, especially the taxpayers who bear the major cost of maintaining the Nigerian criminal justice system which includes the prison service. By implication, tax money and other monetary allocations are channelled to the prison at the expense of other essential institutions like education sector, community development, etc.
I was privileged to have been born and lived in the oil city of Warri, Delta state Nigeria and while it is a great place, just like most busy Nigerian cities, it also has its fair share of street violence and criminality. I experienced firsthand the effects of crime on members of the society; In some areas of Igbudu, Iyara, Essi-layout, one couldn’t make a call outside at night from fear of criminals but one thing that kept amazing me were the ones that were arrested, convicted and sent to prison especially from phone theft; they always came back worse than they ever were and continue in even bigger crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping.
There is no single reason that has been confirmed to be the cause of recidivism in Nigeria but there are a lot of obvious factors one could point out like overcrowding, proper orientation of inmates while in prison and lack of adequate aftercare for prisoners upon their release.
Reports have confirmed that most Nigerian prisons are overcrowded by over 100%; in some cases, a prison that was meant for 895 inmates was housing almost 3000 inmates. Now you can imagine the prison cell suppose to harbour 10-15 or maximum of 20 now harbouring 80, 90 and even 100. From these scenarios, one can measure the impact of this condition on the mentality and welfare of the prisoner.
This overcrowding often leads to an indiscriminate combination of prisoners, a situation whereby in the bid to accommodate everybody juvenile inmates will have to be put together with adults, minor offenders with deviant or hardened criminals. In spite of the fact that most states in the federation have various version of children and young person legislation, the flow of children and young persons into adults prisons is yet to stop. Regrettably, this process leads to recidivism, indoctrination of minor offenders: comes out more hardened, worse than they were before been taken to the prisons
The big question then is what are the possible solutions to curbing this seemingly endless trend of recidivism? Using Adeniyi Ajayi as a case study; it is quite glaring that even prisoners in the most unlikely of environments still have the time to socialize and learn whatever they dim interesting but it is rather unfortunate that they tend to end up with the wrong company and hence learn the wrong things.
So what happens in a case when they are able to find the right company in prison and learn the right things? Since every action is first thought about and at least conceived in the mind before execution then what if these prisoners are made to learn good things in prison? The answer is quite easy to guess; then the rate of recidivism will be reduced. When prison inmates are properly mentored and rehabilitated they are imbibed with the right mindset that will make them shun a life of crime upon their release which is actually the real objective for the establishments of correctional facilities.
The prison system is expected not only to shelter offenders pending when they will be released but also contribute meaningfully in transforming them into law-abiding citizens, thereby facilitating their easy reintegration and to guard against relapsing
It is in demanding tasks like this that the PRALARG INT’L (Prisons Rehabilitation and Law Abiding Organization International) comes into play; PRALARG is an international nonprofit organization that is fully devoted to the effective and positive rehabilitation of prison inmates as well as general sensitization of the public in strictly abiding by government laws.
The effect of proper orientation and general education (formal and informal) on inmates’ rehabilitation is, to a large extent, a catalyst for reducing recidivism both in the short and long runs. It is only sad that organizations like this have not been given the full support and motivation from the public as well as relevant authorities. Adeniyi Ajayi might not have turned out to become a recidivist if he had gotten the right orientation in prison. According to him he learnt arm robbery in prison and in his words
“For them to take me to the prison, I know I will come out hard more” is a harsh reminder that there is more than what meets the eye inside our prisons.
I believe it takes a whole different level of resolution to ask for death rather being sent back to prison. Ajayi says he doesn’t want to disrupt Nigeria more than the way it already is and sadly the prison environment is not left out from this disruption, from overcrowding to poor feeding and medical care and torture by prison warders and fellow inmates, the Nigerian prisons have seemingly become a camp where people are trained to become worse versions of themselves.
Though there have been efforts made by organizations such as PRALARG int’l through their rehabilitation programs for prisoners, the success of efforts to rehabilitate inmates is undermined because offenders usually return to the same communities where they can easily become involved again in criminal activities. Due to lack of adequate aftercare, the ex-prisoner who may have made a personal resolution to avoid his initial crime partners is often only able to find promising company and acceptance in those he is trying to avoid, and so the cycle continues. In the words of Ajayi
“..when I came outside, I was looking for who to help me, and my family is not ready to help…”
Given that stigmatization is one of the leading constraints in integration and reintegration of ex-convicts into the free world, it becomes imperative to properly sensitize the public, especially family members not to stigmatize or discriminate against ex-convicts in their minds.
It is only regrettable that more prisons and longer prison terms have not reduced the crime rate in the society and this is what have led great humanitarians like Comrade Pralagian Akinwunmi Olayemi to go out of their comfort zone and dedicated their noble lives to take up the task of rehabilitation of prisoners, and as well sensitization of the public in obeying government laws. Among its various means of outreach to the prisoners and the general public, is their official website, www.pralarg.org and the recently established online radio platform, STEP Radio online and Step Right Magazine, the media wing of PRALARG INT’L to further broaden its scope of the audience in combating the steadily increasing crime rate and recidivism across the nation.
The imprisonment of convicts without effectively preparing them for the challenges of reintegration upon their release will only create a conducive atmosphere for re-offending. Hence we can say imprisonment alone is not the solution to crime or recidivism but proper reorientation and rehabilitation is; for if the society’s response to ex-convicts does not restore or redeem them, what has been gained?