FROM CAPIO LEGAL DESK: THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE AND OUT OF PRISON/CUSTODY.
There are things we do purposefully or otherwise that send us to prison. Imprisonment has an adverse effect on inmates and ex-inmates (returning citizens). They usually include anti-social and harmful behavioural tendencies like paranoia, depression, delusions, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, stress, diminished self esteem, withdrawal and hostility. Even more, there’s exposure to shame, stigma, loss of privileges and discrimination. Custodial Centers are not desirable places to be and should be avoided as we individually make up our minds to be law abiding.
EFFECTS OF IMPRISONMENT
Imprisonment as a form of punishment for crimes leads to material deprivation, restricted movement and liberty, lack of meaningful activity, absence of personal privacy, stress, anxiety, uncertainty and shame. As an ex-convict or returning citizen you are not allowed to hold public office until ten years after your return.
WHAT IS A PRISON/CUSTODIAL CENTER?
A prison is a place of confinement. However, with the coming of the Correctional Service Act 2019, the word, ‘prison’ was replaced with ‘custodial center’, inclining towards a more modern approach to reforming inmates and carrying out their work. Thus, a custodial center is a place or building where law breakers are kept or confined as punishment for the crimes they committed. People who are accused of committing crimes are also kept in the custodial center, awaiting their trial or while their trial is ongoing. People in custodial centers lose their fundamental right to freedom of movement, given that they are confined, remanded, restricted and limited in many ways–all as punishment for committing a crime.
WHAT IS A CRIME?
A crime is an ACT (what you do) or OMISSION (something you fail to do) which is unlawful and is punishable by law. A crime is a behavior which the law forbids and punishes. Committing a crime involves being involved in acts or omissions that are prohibited and punishable by the law.
WHAT IS AN OFFENCE?
A crime is an offence. Thus, the words ‘crime’ and ‘offence’ can be used interchangeably in the legal parlance.
CATEGORIES OF CRIME
Crimes are broadly categorized into simple offences, misdemeanors and felonies. Simple offences are offences which are punished with fines or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. Misdemeanor is a crime which is punished with imposition of fines or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years and not less than six months. Felonies are crimes that are punished with fines or imprisonment for three years and above (a death penalty inclusive).
PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMES
There are different kinds of punishment for crimes. The punishment given for a particular crime depends on the gravity and category of the offence. Crimes are punished with these penalties: Fines, forfeiture of property, compensation to victims of crime, restitution of stolen or damaged property, community service, whipping, imprisonment and death.
EVERYDAY ACTIONS THAT AMOUNT TO A CRIME OR AN OFFENCE:
- Driving without a driver’s license
- Driving without vehicle particulars
- Fighting in the public
- Drunk driving
- Traffic offences
- Malicious damage
- Obtaining by false pretences
- Giving false information
- Attempted murder/an actual murder
- Conduct likely to breach the peace
- Threat to life
- Receiving or buying stolen property
- Aiding and abetting
- Obstruction of justice
- Accessory after the fact
- Peddling, smoking and use of illegal substance
- Tax evasion
- Issuance of dud cheques
- Sexual offences
- Cultism and so on.
While these crimes are committed intentionally on a daily basis, most of them are committed inadvertently. With the slowness of the Nigerian criminal justice system, inmates exceed the apportioned term for imprisonment whilst still awaiting trial. On this note, CAPIO commits to sensitizing the public on the need to desist from these crimes which are snares to warrant confinement in a custodial centre.
In conclusion, the law leaves us with a good choice– to stay out of trouble by complying with the law and advising others to do the same. It is also very important to seek necessary legal counsel and stay properly guided on matters pertaining to crimes. In the light of this, CAPIO provides free legal services you can leverage on to stay out of conflict.
WILSON NNEJI, LLB, LLM, ACArb, ChMC.
Legal Officer CAPIO.