*The Difference Between Traditional And Modern Justice is Visible — Traditional Ruler, Odunaya Ajayi, JP
*Kids Raised In Poverty Tend To Get Into Crime More Than Those From Wealthy Home — Prof. Bryon Johnson
*Traditional Institution System of Justice Was More of a Balanced Justice System — Dr. Akeem Olajide Bello

The National Prison Ministry Conference, 2020 was held from 15th – 16th October, 2020 on the theme “Corrections Faith-Based Therapies And Communities Of Support”.

The day two of the conference featured three sessions and a panel discussion.

The first session anchored by  HRM Michael Odunayo Ajayi JP was on the topic “Cultural Institutions, social values and crime reduction in Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal”.

According to the traditional ruler, whilst there’s a need to commend the government for the change of name, there’s also the need to ensure that there’s meaningful development in the system and that it is not merely a change in nomenclature. He considered that under the pre-colonial era traditional institutions had ways to ensuring justice is done in the land-based on the community beliefs and traditions, examples being the existence of traditional/palace courts.

He opined that in giving judgements, these traditional institutions do not only seek to punish, but also to change the individual/offender. This difference between the traditional and modern Judicial system is visible, as in the present system offenders go into prisons only to come out more hardened and dangerous than expected, in contrast to the traditional system of Justice, which seeks to restore and rehabilitate the offenders.

“As a way of reincorporating the individual back to society, government and civil society organization, must come in to provide financial, social (and maybe spiritual) support to the prisoners, as well as, a follow-up of ex-convicts, that way, the individual can have a useful life outside prison.” The traditional ruler said.

According to him, in the traditional system, the scenario of the cain and the carrot system is usually adopted, as the ex-convict should be seen as part of the society, so as to guarantee that the individual does not fall back into crime. He considered that the traditional system allows for a form of “cleansing”, which is an avenue to bring the offender back into society, and there’s also a need to encourage good moral upbringing in the youths, as the society is gradually losing this aspect of values.

In another development, the second session was anchored by Dr. Bryon Johnson (Prof. of social sciences at Baylor University, Texas) on the topic “Corrections, Faith-based therapies, communities of support and recidivism”.

The Prof considered that in the reduction of crime, there’s a need to incorporate faith, as suggested by various researches and studies. For him, studies have shown that kids raised in poverty tend to get into crime more than those from wealthy homes, but that to cushion this possibility, a protective factor would be for the kid to go to church. Such kids are less likely to get into drug abuse, gang violence, and cultism. And religion can help people who are already in trouble to find peace and remain sober, thereby helping the reformation of inmates via faith-based intervention.

In addition, he noted that religion can also help in creating pro-social behaviors, because of the virtues that are constantly taught as well as the benefits that are attached to doing good.

Furthermore, the third session was on the topic “Restorative justice—Promises and Problem” by Dr. Akeem Olajide Bello (Associate Professor of Law, UNILAG).

According to him, the traditional institution system of Justice was more of a balanced system of Justice. However, most trials in modern practices are such that the victim is usually left out of the trial space and the needs and considerations of the victim are largely abandoned by the prosecutor in the trial.

He noted that restorative justice however seeks to carry both the offender, victim, and society together. Instances exist where the victim is satisfied with just restitution, and not necessarily the prosecution of an offender, as such, it ought to be considered in determining steps to be taken at trials.

A possibility for incorporating the restorative justice system into our current system would be to encourage non-litigious steps into resolving the issues, such as plea bargain arrangements, the use of mediators in resolving such disputes, the adoption of non-custodial sentencing amongst others; and thus far, most states have not yet been able to incorporate these reforms into the system.

In addition, he stated that the benefits of retributive justice include;

— An opportunity for the offender to make right his ways through the acknowledgment of his wrong.

— An opportunity for the parties to put the incident behind them and move on, after an effective victim compensation (where possible).

— A quick disposal of cases, and also lenient sentences for the offenders based on the gravity of the offence.

The challenges with the restorative justice system may include;

— Lack of trained personnel in mediation centers

— legislations which mandate the inclusion of victims of crime, at all stages of the criminal trial, thereby bringing the intention and mindset of the victim into consideration.

— Lack of awareness of restorative justice remedial system, as well as, the protection of victims and witnesses.

Also, he stated that there’s a need to incorporate restorative system into our adversarial system, that way settling some of the challenges in our correctional system.

Other speakers at the webinar include Dr. Uju Agomoh, the Executive Director and Founder of PRAWA amongst others.

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