In the language of the COVID-19 pandemic, prison centers are a form of isolation and holding centers where persons with bad characters are excluded from the society to avoid their evil from spreading and affecting other lives, and where they can be reformed and transformed. Also, prison life is a way of punishing misbehaviour or crime. In most countries, there is a higher population of prison inmates than the allowable capacity for such prisons. This isn’t solely because there are more criminals in those places than was expected.
It may be due to the fact that most persons incarcerated within prison walls are there either for a crime they never committed or because the judicial system is slow in justice delivery. “New data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics suggest Nigerian prisons may hold more innocents than guilty criminals. The report, covering data from 2011 to 2015, shows that 72.5% of Nigeria’s total prison population are inmates serving time while awaiting trial and without being sentenced.” (https://qz.com/africa/892498/up-to-three-quarters-of-nigerias-prison-population-is-serving-time-without-being-sentenced/).
Aside from the Nigerian case, “various studies estimate that in the United States, between 2.3 and 5% of all prisoners are innocent. One study estimated that up to 10,000 people may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year. A 2014 study estimated that 4.1% of inmates awaiting execution on death row in the United States are innocent and that at least 340 innocent people may have been executed since 1973.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscarriage_of_justice).
This is an issue for the judiciary and the Police to tackle. But can we for a while considering the prisons to be isolation centers? What lesson(s) has the lockdown experience taught us regarding the state of life of prison inmates? “………modern research shows that perhaps the most psychologically damaging aspect of prison isn’t imprisonment itself. Rather, it is the disconnect from friends, family, and the outside world that is the most detrimental.
10 of the most common adverse psychological effects of prison include Delusions, Paranoia, Claustrophobia, Depression, Panic and stress Denial, Nightmares, night terrors, insomnia, Substance abuse, Increased levels of hostility, Self-destructive behavior. Other effects include Dissociation and emotional withdrawal, Social withdrawal, Diminished self-esteem.” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-psychological-effects-prison-what-happens-your-gedney-md-dr-g-).
Having gone through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown we can relate to some of the effects of incarceration listed above. Seclusion from, and denial of, social interactions became a problem to contend with as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown lasted. Even the financial difficulty that was experienced couldn’t be compared to the mental threat it brought. We struggled to cope with the daily boredom. We all yearned for freedom and appreciated what freedom means.
Now, the point is whether this will remind us of those held in the prisons. Will those involved in the judiciary process play their role effectively? Will the prison operators care more about those whose freedom has been denied them? It is time to pursue prison management reforms. Since we so yearned for a release from the COVID-19 lockdown let us also care for those locked away in the prisons.