A non-governmental organisation, Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN), has trained Nigerian citizens from different states to train volunteers for effective service to correctional services and inmates across the country.
This was done in a two-day training themed, ‘Raising the standard bearer,’ held on February 12 and 13, 2021, where series of activities were carried out to aid the learning of the standard bearers (trainers), who are representatives of 22 out of 27 states where PFN is presented in Nigeria.
Participants at the event were Benson Iwuagwu, Executive Director of PFN; Mr Victor Ezebuife, TPJ Programme Officer; Bukola Oyediran, Programme Officer, Sycamore Tree Project (STP); Mr Michael Adeh, Special Association Training, PFN; Dr Sunday Bello, CEO, Worklife Training Professionals and Mrs Bukky Femi-Ajala, Managing Director, Beecit Solutions Limited, who had a class on the topic “fundamentals of training.”
Oyediran, who gave an overview of STP, explained that the project is designed to help victims of crime experience resolution.
According to her, prisoners commit to change and both inmates and victims find increased hope for the future. Crime victims, she noted, are brought into prison to meet with groups of unrelated offenders, adding that the volunteers would talk to inmates about the effect of crime, the harm it causes and how to make things right.
“The programme usually has a profound effect on the victim, the offender and the community,” she declared, adding that STP was based on the principles of restorative justice, aimed at reconciling inmates, healing them and bringing them back to society as better persons.
She said: “Eight-week course will be done by the inmates, which would help them realise the outcome of their actions, make them repent and to begin to take responsibility for their actions.
“For the first time, most of them tend to forgive themselves, and after forgiving themselves, they can forgive others. The next stage is to make amends for the wrong they have done by rendering community services, or writing covenant letters, which they pledge to God, promising not to commit any offence again. Some even write poems.”
“The seventh stage is making peace with everyone and their victims indirectly or directly, and the last stage is graduation, where they will be celebrated and awarded certificates of attendance. And after their graduation, they become ambassadors of peace, where they settle disputes in their yards.”
Ezebuife, in his overview of the prisoner’s journey, stated that the TPJ is divided into five phases, which are the preparatory phase, the promotion phase, the course stage, where the inmates are brought into an apportioned class and are thought for eight weeks, which must be ended with an event called graduation.
Upon graduation, the inmates, Ezebuife said, would be celebrated and given certificates, while the fourth phase is called discipleship, and the fifth phase is called the evaluation phase, after which there will be a briefing where the whole of the classes would be reviewed, and once that is done, the circle of TPJ is completed.
“The outbreak of the virus has prevented us from going on with the classes, and they are not allowed to go into the prison in a crowd. When the inmates are released, some of them use to contact us to seek transportation and sometimes clothes,” he stated.
“This training has widened our knowledge on how we are going to be introducing restorative justice. We are going to follow up gradually. And seeing that in the north east, it’s not easy to just open up things, so we will have to go step by step,” some of the northern volunteers said.
Another standard-bearer from Oyo State stated that the training was going to help build capacity, effectiveness, and a new way of doing things.
“It is also going to build advocacy and create a better relationship between the PFN volunteers and the correctional service staff by educating them on how the PFN products are promoting and assisting their jobs. “It will help us to give PFN a special place in prison ministry through these products,” they stated.