Anthony Hannon, Project Officer at Misean Cara met with staff at CAPIO (Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organisation) in Enugu State, Nigeria during a recent monitoring visit.
Prisons in Nigeria are in a deplorable condition. Mostly built in colonial times, they are old, dilapidated and frequently accommodate more than 3 times their capacity. The vast majority of the inmates are not convicted, and inmates can spend years in prison awaiting trial.
The mission of the Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organisation (CAPIO) is to protect the interest of prisoners in Nigeria through advocacy for a reformed judicial system and provision of compassionate, free legal, social welfare and rehabilitation services applying international best practice.
Since 2013 Misean Cara has supported CAPIO to achieve this mission. This support paid dividends in 2017 when the Enugu Assembly (the governing body of the state) passed a new criminal justice law. This is a landmark law and marks a paradigm shift, away from the current punitive justice system to a system based on restorative justice and rehabilitation. The law provides for speedy dispensation of justice and includes innovations like alternative sentencing and plea bargaining. The law passed in Enugu has been adjudged the most progressive version of all criminal proceedings laws in Nigeria.
The role played by CAPIO in the quality of the bill, bringing all the relevant stakeholders along in its support and in getting it passed through the Enugu Assembly in record time was described by both the Attorney General and the Chief Justice of Enugu as “immense”. CAPIO is now taking a leading role to sensitise both the general public and the arms of the justice system (the police, judiciary, prison officers, judges, etc) about the law and ensure its proper implementation. The expertise of CAPIO is reflected in their participation at national and international events on justice and prison reform. CAPIO have also been requested by other states in Nigeria to support them reform their justice systems and develop their own criminal justice laws.
Special report by Anthony Hannon, Project Officer, Misean Cara.
Photo caption: Director of Public Prosecutions of Enugu State, Barrister Chuka Ezike; Anthony Hannon, Misean Cara; Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Enugu State, Metitus Eze; Fr Ambrose Ekeroku OCD (Director of CAPIO) discussed the new criminal justice law in Enugu State.