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Swapping Prison Sentences for Books? Italy's Prisons Pilot New Scheme

 Looking over a shoulder at ZODML's Prison Knowledge Centre


Prisoners in Italy's Calabria region may soon be rewarded with shortened sentences by being diligent readers. The UK newspaper The Independent reports that the region's council recently approved a bill which reduces an immate's sentence by 3 days for every book they complete, with a cap of 16 books per year applicable to the sentence reduction.

It is hoped that the bill, which is to be debated in Italy's parliament, will not only reduce prison overcrowding but also promote a love of books and "awareness and social and personal redemption.” Brazil pioneered a similar scheme in 2012. Is this something Nigeria should consider? The country's prison population is estimated at 50,000, approximately 70% of which is still awaiting trial. While poor living conditions, overcrowding, and inadequate access to healthcare and other resources remain critical issues for our Prisons Service to address, the personal development of inmates is also worthy of attention. The United Nation's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners state in Article 40 that

Every institution shall have a library for the use of all categories of prisoners, adequately stocked with both recreational and instructional books, and prisoners shall be encouraged to make full use of it.

and in Article 77 that

(1) Provision shall be made for the further education of all prisoners capable of profiting thereby, including religious instruction in the countries where this is possible. The education of illiterates and young prisoners shall be compulsory and special attention shall be paid to it by the administration. (2) So far as practicable, the education of prisoners shall be integrated with the educational system of the country so that after their release they may continue their education without difficulty.

Statistics show that access to education and reading material helps to increase the employability of inmates and reduce the level recidivism. Efforts to this end are being made by the Nigerian Prisons Service, which recently announced the matriculation of 31 inmates in the 2013/2014 academic session of the National Open University of Nigeria. Access to learning resources and books for inmates is a cause worth supporting, as it is likely to result in a safer and smarter society for us all. Nigeria policy makers should keep an eye on the Italian and Brazilian initiatives to determine if a similar scheme could be put in place in here. ZODML supports inmates of the Ikoyi Correctional Centre with learning resources. Learn more about our Prison Knowledge Centre here.

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