Official advocates community service punishment to decongest Nigerian prisons

An official of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice has advocated that convicts of minor offences should be sentenced to community services.

Olakunle Adewusi, who is a Field Service Officer, State Community Service Unit, of the ministry, told the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Lagos that if adopted, the measure would help in decongesting prisons in the country.

”As at July, 2014, there were 1,914 inmates and offenders on remand in the 800-inmate-capacity prison in Ikoyi and more than 70 per cent of them were awaiting trial,” he said. ”The situation in our prisons is making the place unsuitable as a source of deterrence to offenders.”

Mr. Adewusi, who is the field officer in Ijede, near Ikorodu, explained that “Community service entails asking an accused found guilty to do certain service like cleaning drainage, sanitation work, caring for abandon children, among others.

“Such duties as sentences should be applied instead of sentencing convicts to jail terms in prisons.”

According to him, community service is a viable medium to deter many people from committing crimes.

He, however, suggested that only minor offences should attract community service punishments and urged the bench, especially magistrates, to heed the suggestion.

”A good number of awaiting trial persons on remand are those accused of traffic offences, verbal abuse, assault, and offences that are not life threatening,” he said. “It will not be good to allow this category of accused to rot in prisons or allow their trial to linger for too long.”

He also said that trial periods for minor offences would reduce drastically if magistrates began to sentence offenders to community service.

He maintained that people would desist from committing minor offences when they see convicts doing community service as punishment for committing an offence.

“Sentencing people to do community service will be a big relief to governments in terms of public funds being expended to sustain, maintain and develop our criminal correction system,” he said.

(NAN)


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