The FCT command of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) has called for removing the criminal conviction status portion on recruitment and employment forms.
Ibrahim Idris, the command’s comptroller, said on Thursday after a sensitisation road walk against stigmatisation of ex-offenders held in Gwagwalada area council in Abuja.
Mr Idris said removing the criminal conviction portion on employment forms will curb discrimination and stigmatisation against ex-offenders.
The sensitisation is an annual Yellow Ribbon Campaign organised by the NCoS. The 2023 campaign was done in partnership with Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) and Hope Behind Bars Africa.
The comptroller said there was a need to end stigmatisation of ex-offenders and for them to be given opportunities to be reintegrated into the society.
“Today is Yellow Ribbon Day. It is an international day for peace, and we mark it in the NCoS with sensitisation on ex-inmates of correctional services. We took the campaign to the chief of Gwagwalada today to sensitise his people, both religious, traditional and all other members of the community, on the need to give ex-offenders opportunities in the town,” stated Mr Idris.
The prison comptroller added, “Whether in terms of job, marriage and other social activities because it has been the practice of the public to ostracise ex-inmates, and they believe that once an offender is always an offender. But by virtue of our new act, the Nigeria Correctional Service Act 2019, the basic thing now is corrections, and there’s no room for punishing offenders again.”
Mr Idris said the new act has a section that empowers the comptroller general of NCoS to certify that an inmate is fit to return to society.
“It is assured that the inmate has been purged of offences and there is no likelihood of offending again, and that certification is enough to assure the society that all is well. If we condemn ex-offenders and don’t give them opportunities to contribute to the development of the country, society will be worse off,” the prison official explained.
Mr Idris added that, unfortunately, the issue of the portion on employment forms where one is required to fill whether they are an ex-convict or not has been a thing of concern at the policy level.
“That is why certification was inserted into the new act, and we would continue to do advocacy for society and employers to give opportunities for ex-offenders to be integrated into society,” the NCoS official noted. “In most cases, it is just lack of education or ignorance that makes people fear that portion of employment because in more advanced countries, they also have that segment, and people display the certificate of correctional services.”
Mr Idris stressed that “when you have once been in a correctional service, it is not a problem, and it shouldn’t hinder people from getting jobs.”
The FCT prison comptroller also mentioned that imprisonment was enough punishment for offenders, and prison inmates are being reformed and rehabilitated to make better life choices, pointing out that prisons do 50 per cent of the reforming and rehabilitating offenders.
The other 50 per cent, according to Mr Idris, is left to society to receive the ex-offenders without condemning or discriminating against them.