Can paying fines to prisoners decongest prison? Study of Fines payment Scheme at Goron-Dutse Prison
Prisons overcrowd remains one of the pressing concerns not only to the government but also to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals. Prison authorities in Nigeria often call upon other government agencies and stakeholders to appreciate these concerns, and start thinking about as well as implementing appropriate measures. In May, 2008, as part of their response to the deepening crises of congestions in Nigerian prisons, a local government council and a faith-based NGO jointly carried out a prison decongestion project in which One hundred and fifty (150) prisoners serving various imprisonment terms at Goron Dutse prison in Kano State were freed through paying their fines. However, within three weeks Goron Dutse prison was even more congested as it had been before the commencement of the fine payment exercise. The questions remain are what went wrong with the project and how appropriate is the decongestion strategy?
Based upon an intensive interview undertaken with the project’s managers, beneficiaries (freed prisoners), prison officials and other prisoners, this report assesses the strategy’s impact on the prisons authorities, freed prisoners and other prisoners within the prison that were not involved in the scheme with a view of appraising policy makers of the situation so that they can make informed decisions. The outcomes of the report revealed that paying fines of selected sentenced prisoners is rather disappointing, narrow, insufficient, inappropriate and very difficult. Moreover, the scheme is externally imposed and heavily relies on external sources for funding; hence outcomes of the project were unsatisfactory and to some extent, it precipitates recidivism. Above all, the project appears to have rather short-term effect on the both prison authorities and the freed prisoners. Conclusively, the report prescribes short and long terms alternative strategies for prison decongestion that could be carried out jointly or individually by the policy makers, prisons authorities, philanthropists and Non-governmental Organisation (NGO).