Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
In a move to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons, a non-governmental organisation, Kenotay250Project has called on Judges and Magistrates in the country to strongly consider the non-custodian sentence for offenders who are not able to meet with the court fines.
Kenotay250Project made the call while securing the release of five young prison inmates, even as it takes on four new cases pro-bono at the Suleja prison in Niger State.
The founder, Kenotay250Project, Kehinde Odunlami, while speaking with the press immediately after securing the release disclosed that in spite of the establishment of the Legal Aid Council, the poor and indigent in the society still find access to justice inaccessible, therefore undermining the entire justice system and thwarting a very fundamental right.
According to her, â€œAs legal professionals, the most useful contribution we can make to the society is to use our knowledge and expertise to make meaningful impact on the lives of the less privileged by providing access to rights, services and justice.
â€œAll pro bono work that we undertake is handled like any other billable matter with the dedication of all available firm resources appropriate to the needs of the representation.”
Speaking further, Odunlami said, â€œwe also encourage Magistrates and Judges to strongly consider non-custodian sentences. That is, unpaid community services for inmates and first time offenders who are not aware to pay the court fines. This will certainly resolve the problem of overcrowded prison, considering the fact that a large proportion of those incarcerated are convicted of minor offences. It will also save billions of Naira, in the interest of the public.”
She revealed that going to prison can be very destructive for the individual and family. â€œThey lose their family, jobs, friends and although one of the purposes of the incarceration is to be reformed, they tend to come out hardened, traumatised and become a further problem to the society.”
She explained that the #FreedomFriday is one of the activities the NGO has under its project. Adding that, â€œevery month, our lawyers visit a prison and pay fines of the young adults that meet our eligibility requirement and whose incarceration is as a result of not being able to pay for the fine imposed by the courts.”
Continuing, she stated that the #FreedomFriday won’t be restricted to the nation’s capital alone, revealing that next month, the team will be going to Oyo State, Ibadan. â€œSo, itâ€™s Nigerian and access to justice for everyone.
â€œI want to encourage both new and experienced lawyers to do Pro Bono. New lawyers gain valuable experience, possibly including trial experience because, pro bono services are in high demand, young attorneys can practice at a more advanced level earlier than their peersâ€, she added.