Kwara PFN members protest stigmatization of ex-convicts

Members of the Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN), Kwara State chapter have staged a walk round Ilorin, the state capital, to call for end to stigmatisation of ex-convicts in the state.

The group including Christian professionals, retired civil servants, legal officers and journalists, in the state, engaged in a rally tagged, ‘Justice Walk’, a Yellow Ribbon project by members of the PFN and Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), urging the society to support ex-offenders on their reintegration journey from prisons.

Participants of the rally displayed various placards such as, ‘A word of encouragement can improve the life of ex-offenders’,  ‘Prepare ex-offenders for reintegration back to the community’, ‘Stop stigmatisation of ex-offenders’, and ‘Ex-offenders have right to life, let’s accept them back to the society’.

Speaking to newsmen, the state chairperson of PFN, Mrs Adeola Ayano, said that ex-offenders after release from prison, are often not released from the stigma of society.

Ayano, who quoted the National Institute of Justice, said that almost 80 per cent of ex-offenders will be rearrested within five years of their release.

“Fifteen years ago, the Yellow Ribbon Project was established to create awareness about the need to give second chances to ex-offenders. It is also to generate acceptance of ex-offenders and their families in the community, and to inspire community action to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders into society.

“Every year, thousands of offenders are released from prison. Most leave with the hope of starting afresh and reconnecting with their families and their communities. Key to this is a chance at employment which allows them to stand tall, be independent, and able to provide for their families. So, a job is not just about livelihood, but also about dignity.

“However, while released from prison, ex-offenders are often not released from the stigma of society. The transition from prison to working life is not easy. Quite a number of these ex-offenders have low or no education, making it difficult for them to seek employment. A criminal record compounds the difficulty to reintegrate into society.

According to the National Institute of Justice, almost 80 percent of ex-offenders will be rearrested within five years of their release. This is solely because they are not properly follow up or counsel and reintegrated back to the society,” she said.

The publicity secretary of the voluntary organisation, Adeyinka Ajiboye, noted that PFN believed that everyone deserves a second chance and one of its key tasks is to overcome the challenge of reintegration of ex-offenders, and to reduce re-offending.

“Every society needs to run on the rule of law. As we know, this includes a system of penalties and punishments for acts that are detrimental to society. But such a system of enforcement of discipline also needs to be moderated and complemented with efforts for offenders to make good and rejoin society. The same consideration exists in our education system. A person’s future cannot be totally determined by his or her past,” he added.

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