A non government organisation, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) has called for the decriminalisation and declassification of petty offences in the nation’s codes.
The program officer of PRAWA, Katumi M. Oboirien, Wednesday disclosed this in her welcome address at a media capacity workshop on penal reforms in Nigeria which took place in Kano.
She explained that a good number of persons held in these prisons are petty offenders, who ordinarily should not have been sent to prison.
She explained that in many cases, these petty offenders are convicted or detained in police custody for offences are as minor as wandering, idleness and public nuisance.
She argued that the codes that formed the basis for some of these arrests by security operatives have since been repelled, but are still surprisingly still being enforced by the policing institutions.
She also noted that their experiences working close to prisoners in the state indicated that many petty offenders could not afford to pay the fines imposed on them by the courts.
“Even when we get some good and kind hearted people to help them pay their fines, another crowd of petty offenders is arrested and sent to prison by the following day”, she said.
She advocated for the reforms of the criminal justice sector, adding that the state government should come up with innovative and creative ways of exerting punishment on petty offenders which would not put pressure on the prisons. She advocated for the use of community service such as cleaning roads and washing toilets as new ways of punishing petty offenders.