The significance of criminal justice administration in the smooth running of any society cannot be overemphasized, hence an effective and efficient criminal justice system is sacrosanct to the maintenance of law and order.
It is disheartening to state that the criminal justice system, no doubt in Nigeria, has become dysfunctional hence the need for prompt and proper overhauling of the system for better justice administration, especially as it relates to delay in dispensation of justice and prison congestion which remains disturbing and challenging in the quick dispensation of justice.
The problem of prison congestion in Nigeria is one of the unbearable issues that have continued to stir the ship of the criminal system of the nation as a whole, thereby giving rise to an urgent reform of all institutions concerned including the Nigerian Prison Service, judiciary, police and other stakeholders involved in the maintenance of law and order in the society.
Prison reform which is an attempt at improving prison condition has also become ineffective due to a number of factors ranging from increasing number of prisoners awaiting trials in correctional facilities to unnecessary and prolonged adjournments of court cases amongst other factors.
This is why the giant strides embarked upon by the Ogun State judiciary led by the Chief Judge, Justice Mosunmola Arinola Dipeolu, in reforming the judicial sector of the state by ensuring that prison formations across the state are decongested of awaiting trial inmates laudable. The exercise called ‘Prison Courts’ takes place across the five prison formations in the state as part of the fundamental reform in the state’s criminal justice system.
Magistrates are now stationed at the prison to hold court sessions as a measure to checkmate unnecessary or prolonged detention of awaiting trial inmates by hastening the pace of justice and to tackle the problems of logistics of moving accused persons to and from courts amongst others being faced in the course of litigation.
The benefits of prison courts, if inculcated into the nation’s judicial sector, will go beyond decongesting the prisons to include easy access to justice, promotion of the rule of law, provision of opportunities for lawyers to work on case filed promptly, trial of accused persons without delay, ease in the problem of mobility and distance counsels travel to in order to represent accused persons in courts while the issue of long duration of litigation will be reduced to a minimal level if not totally eradicated, to freeing the clustered dockets of courts while serving as a viable means of achieving justice, amongst others.
While all hands must be on deck, support for the legal body is required to make the delivery of effective legal service a reality. In my opinion, Prison courts should be introduced into the country’s justice system as a complimentary process of improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of justice as a whole.