In a bid to combat discrimination and stigmatization against ex-offenders, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) command of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) has called for the removal of the criminal conviction status portion from recruitment and employment forms.
This announcement came during the annual Yellow Ribbon Campaign, a sensitization event aimed at raising awareness about the reintegration of ex-inmates into society, held in the Gwagwalada area council of Abuja.
Ibrahim Idris, the Comptroller of the NCoS command, emphasized the need to eliminate the criminal conviction section on employment forms, asserting that it would help curb discrimination and stigmatization faced by individuals with prior criminal records. The 2023 Yellow Ribbon Campaign was conducted in partnership with Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) and Hope Behind Bars Africa.
Comptroller Idris highlighted the urgency of ending the stigmatization of ex-offenders and affording them opportunities for successful reintegration into society. He stated, “Today is Yellow Ribbon Day. It is an international day for peace, and we mark it in the NCoS with sensitization on ex-inmates of correctional services.” He further explained that the public often ostracizes ex-inmates, believing that “once an offender is always an offender.” However, the Nigeria Correctional Service Act 2019 focuses on rehabilitation and corrections rather than punishment, allowing for the certification of an inmate’s readiness to return to society.
Under this new act, the Comptroller General of NCoS has the authority to certify that an inmate is fit for reintegration, having been rehabilitated and purged of offenses. Comptroller Idris stressed that this certification should assure society that ex-offenders have been adequately reformed and pose no threat. He emphasized the importance of giving ex-offenders opportunities to contribute to the country’s development, as denying them such opportunities would be detrimental to society.
Regarding concerns about the section on employment forms that require individuals to disclose their ex-convict status, Comptroller Idris noted that it has been a contentious issue at the policy level. He pointed out that advanced countries also include similar sections on their employment forms, but he underlined the significance of advocating for the acceptance and integration of ex-offenders into Nigerian society.
Idris emphasized, “When you have once been in a correctional service, it is not a problem, and it shouldn’t hinder people from getting jobs.” He further emphasized that imprisonment should suffice as punishment for offenders, and the rehabilitation and reformation of inmates are essential components of the correctional process. The other 50 percent of this reformation, according to Comptroller Idris, is the responsibility of society, which should receive ex-offenders without condemnation or discrimination.
The NCoS’s call for the removal of the criminal conviction status portion on employment forms reflects a broader effort to promote the reintegration and acceptance of ex-offenders into Nigerian society, thereby reducing recidivism and fostering a more inclusive community.