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The main purpose of this study was to find out the challenges facing prison reforms in Nigeria, using the maximum security prison which locks only male prisoners and the female security prison, both of which are in Kirikiri, Lagos.

Fifty respondents which include both the staff and the inmates of the two prisons (female and maximum security) prisons were sampled. The respondents views on the challenges facing prison reforms in Nigeria were sampled. The questionnaire on the challenges facing prison reforms in Nigeria developed by the researcher herself was used for the measurement of these challenges based on the quality of staff or prison personnel, how well equipped the Nigerian prison is, the building structure, the society and the criminal justice system.

Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the respondents were of the opinion that the above factors were major challenges facing prison reforms in Nigeria. There were five hypothesis generated in the study.

They were tested using simple percentages and frequency counts. The study found among many other things, that the quality of staff is a determinant factor in prison reforms. It was also found out that the criminal justice system, societal attitude towards ex-prisoners and the under-funding of the prisons pose a lot of challenges to prison reforms.

However, it has been ascertained that these factors encourage over-crowding in the prison and not giving room to proper reformation of prisoners and their eventual rehabilitation as affirmed by research findings.

Therefore, there is the need for stakeholders to make conscious efforts to reform the Nigerian prison service.



So much said in recent times about prison and the need to reform.

They, as much as insinuated that the prison do not perform their function at present as expected, and if any rehabilitation is accomplished at all, it is affected not because of imprisonment but other factors. The Nigeria president olusegun obasanjo in his July 2005 television monthly chat opened that the Nigeria prison services are not the job they arrogated to themselves.

There is no doubt that the modern prison is enmeshed in crises of identity whatever is for it is for one clear and single purpose said Lionel fox (1952 p. 15). According to neiderhofer (1981), a prison was formerly an institution establish purposely for punishment. Custody and control. In the report and recommendations on the classification of prisoners and the grouping of prison and lock –ups on function basis  (1975) it reiterated “when emphasis was on the early primary aims of society, the job of the prison officers was easy. It was purely and simply custodial. Prisoners were subject to hard and rules. Criminal captive so indeed they were regarded as, retrograde and were so treated. This crisis might have gradually crept in when penologist now strove to meet a new concept and goal of treatment and rehabilitation. No longer is the criminal regarded as enemy of society someone who needs great attention and assistance. Li wand explain that the zeal for prison reform was aroused after the American Revolution by the Quakers and famous Philadelphian as Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush took the leadin setting up penal institution based on new concept of justices and perfectibility of man. John Howard the magna carta of prison management has this idea that “if you made prisoners think they would see the error of their ways’’.

In 1955 the united nation unanimously adopted the rules on the prevention of crime and the treatment of the offenders. It state inter –alia. ‘’The purpose and justification sentence of imprisonment or similar measure derivative liberty is ultimately to protect society against crime’’. This can only be achieved if the period of imprisonment is used to ensure that the offender leads a law abiding and self-reliant life when he/she eventually returns to the society.

To this end, the prison institution needs to utilize all the remedial, education, moral, spiritual and other forms of assistance available. This should be applied according to individual treatment needs of the prisoners. According to Sir Alexander Paterson, a prison administrator, the first duty of the prison warden is to ensure at least that a man emerging from prison is no more deprived than when he entered it.

In a study carried out by the National Commission on law observance and Enforcement in 1931 in Federal and state prison in the united state, it was reported that the present system of the united state of American had failed. The commission based its conclusion on finding that the men who were released were not better equipped to accept an honest role in the world than before commitment. Leiwand (1972) put it thus, institution founded upon high hopes and loftly aspirations during the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century to solve the problems of crime… are failing us as we approach the twenty-first century  

Following the earlier reforms the walnut street jail become the first penitentiary in the united state which separated hardened criminals from first time offender and civil offenders. This was widely copied by other prison. Leiwand (1972 p. 27) reiterated that “despite a promising beginning the walnut street jail was not the great success for which its founder had hoped. It was doomed to go down to defeat because of welter of politics, incompetent personal, overcrowding, idleness and inadequate financial support’’

Similar circumstances have hampered the Nigerian prison service which has been described as a “modern day dungeon according to west idahosa who was elected to represent Edo North Federal Constituency in the house of Representative in Nigeria (April 2006 pg 5 and chesa (Jan 2006 pg B/17) simply described it as hellish”. This condition he attributed to overcrowding, inadequate feeding, poor sanitary and medical facilities illegal detentions, inadequate recreation, vocational facilities and poorly designed facilities.

“It is no secret that prison infrastructure in the country is a shambles.…. Prisoners are held in dilapidation building, some of them erected, many years ago, prisoners like Bauchi construction in 1820, Yola: 1905, Sokoto: 1908, Kano: 1903 among others are begging for both structural and aesthetic renovations’’ PRAWA (March1999 pg 6).

Ahamadu (1971) observed that a prison is said to be crowded not only when it holds more person than its rated capacity (that is the capacity determined by architects and planners) but also when the ratio between personnel and inmates exceeds a certain proportion. Quinney (1979) is of the view that even when treatment programmes are provided they are as dehumanizing as imprisonment.

The Nigerian prison service in their view has been performing their functions to the best of their ability and equipment. According to the report and recommendation on the classification of prisoners… it is a mistaken belief that no classification can be done without the participation of qualified graduate psychiatrist, psychology and sociology. They can be substituted with qualified psychiatrist Nursing Superintendent. According to Giwa Osagie “our prison system is reformative and not punitive. The process of imprisonment start from the time a person is arrested, remanded, charged, tried and convicted, He, however, admitted that the process of justice is so slow that many inmates awaiting trial have to remain under painful suspense for very long before their fate is decided ‘’The mental agony and physical strain undergone before his conviction and the deprivation of liberty would seem to be enough punishment” he said.

According to the federal government’s policy on the reorganization of prison (1971), the Nigerian prison service had been providing the inmate with social, educational and skills with a view to making him employable on release.

In spite of the claims of the Nigeria   prison, recidivism rate can be accounted for by the ways in which treatment programmes are being implemented. In Giwa Osagies view “our prison are very badly  planned and cannot serve modern requirements.’’


Various studies have been carried on prison and imprisonment. Baly (1852) carried out a study on the effect of imprisonment. A similar study was carried out by Flanagan (1980) on the pains of long-term imprisonment. Leiward (1972) carried out its study on problems of American society (PRISONS) and palmer (1973) carried out its study on the constitutional right of the prisoners. Baly was of the view that imprisonment has a serious effect on the psyche which if not well treated or handled could drive one to insanity. Flanagan (1980) found that several inmates commented that prison lived in a vacuum’’ Leiward (1972) in his study observed that during mid- nineteenth century and early twentieth century to solve the problems of crime……….are failing us as we approach first century Palmer (1973) opined that though imprisonment has limited certain prisoners rights. The prisoner still have some rights if when violated is able to civil or criminal offence.

The above studies carried out so far by these foreign research though boarders on imprisonment none carried out in details a study on the challenge facing prison reforms/reformation of prisoner.

In Nigeria, Mgbemena (1983) Research on the psychology of imprisonment with emphasis on adult prisoners in Benin City. This study was limited to Benin City. Akomolsfe (1987) though carried out a research of reformation of prisoners. Its sample was limited on Ado- Ekiti them in Ondo State and the study did not talk on the challenges facing reformation of prisoners. Nzemeke (1993) research on inmates, perception of Ilorin prison as a means of rehabilitation.

Though the work of Akomolafe (1987) Mgbemena (1983) and Nzemeke (1993) were undertaken in Nigeria, they did not address the issue of the challenge facing prison reforms.

The following are the research question which this study intend to find answers to:

1.       Does the quality of staff affect the reformation of prisoners?

2.       Is the prison ill equipped to carry out the role of reforming the prisoners?

3.       Does the building structure of the prison affect the reformation of the prison?

4.       Classification of prisoners in prison: how far is it practiced and to what extent does this affect the reformation of prisoners?

5.       What role do the inmates play in the achievement of reformation?

6.       What is the role of the other arm of criminal justice system in prison reform?


The main purpose of this study is to find out the challenges facing the reformation of prisoners in Nigeria. It is the purpose of this study to find out:

1.       If the prison service are actually playing their roles as reformers.

2.       Are the inmate actually reformed at the end of the day?

3.       What are the public views of the role of prison service as reformers?

4.           What effect of does the building structure of the prisoners have in the achievement of reformation of prisoners?

5.           If the activities of the other arm of the criminal justice system (the police and the judiciary) affect the achievement of reformation of prisoners. The hue and cry of the Nigeria public is that the prison dehumanizes the inmates, such that, the inmates serve their imprisonment and depart without any noticeable change, and perhaps they come out worse than they want in. The inmates spend much of their time planning their next crime or improving on their criminal techniques. This, they attributed to the deficiency in the prison’s role as reformers. However, there seems not to be any study in Nigerian to prove this, thus, it becomes necessary to carry out this research to find out the challenges facing prison reforms in Nigeria.

It is the belief of those research that this study would contribute significant information with empirically backed data which will be useful to the official and administrator of the prison themselves and other students wishing to carry out similar research and who endeavour to read through this project.

A knowledge of the challenges facing the prison reforms will be useful to the criminal justice system and the government in implement new panel policies and the classification and planning of necessary reformatory treatment for inmates.


1.             The quality of staff is a challenge facing prison reforms in Nigeria.

2.             The prison is ill equipped to carry out the role of reforming prisoners.

3.             The building structure of the prison affects prison reforms.

4.             The society plays a role in prison reforms.

5.             The activities of the other arms criminal justice system (the police and the judiciary) play a role in the challenges facing prison reforms in Nigerian.


The scope of this study will be limited to the inmate in maximum security prison, Kirkiri, Lagos who have spent one year and above, it is believed by the research that these categories of prison have the experiences the prison environment and have undergone most of the treatment in prison. And the staffs who have associated with the prisoners and are able to identify the problems.


For ease of response to the instrument, the sample will be composed of 400 inmate and a hundred staff of the service (maximum and female prison Kirkiri) It is note worthy that the figure chosen for the inmate sample is so because the inmate population is unpredictable as inmate are received and released regularly.

As regards the staff, these are in three categories: the superintendent cadre, the inspectorate cadre and the Assistant cadre. The superintendent cadre are the administrative staff while the inspectorate and the prison assistant cadre are rank and files.

The maximum security prison population is about a hundred and fifty staff and the female prison are about a hundred and one staff.


This research intend to use the analysis of variance to test the hypothesis.

This is because this hypothesis seeks to compare the means of three groups. According to Adana (1990) using the analysis of variance of compare the mean of three or more group selected at random from a given population is testing the truth of a logical statement about the types of variance of the groups.

This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research


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