Art Within the Prison Walls
Morning Crossfire starts with Sheriff Quadri’s remark that prisons are places of re-orientation and reformatory processes and this can be used to make inmates come out as useful members of the society. Yet, the Morning Crossfire show sheds light on what happens behind the prison walls, making use of a story done by Yinka Olatubosun of ThisDay newspaper, she is also fellow of the female reporters of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. The story is titled ‘Art Within the Walls’.
Sheriff continues to remark that the Nigeria Prison Service says there are 73,314 in Nigeria. Lagos has the highest number of prisoners. 22,854 are convicted inmates, while 50,460 are awaiting trial. Two percent of those awaiting trials are women.
In her mission to get something out of the Nigerian prisons, Olatunbosun remarks: “It was the first time inside the walls. I’ve been outside a couple of times but I didn’t know there was a certain politics that comes with trying to report the prison situation. At this time, a friend of mine who’s an artist informed me that he has something to do in prisons and I tagged along. While I was working with that, I discovered that I could actually do my story.”
“You just don’t walk into those places and say you want to do a story. They will but roadblocks before you and ask a lot of questions and eventually, the story project may not be possible.
“I went to the Nigerian Prison Service at Ikoyi and I entered a place that was filled so many young people. It broke my heart. I didn’t care about whether they’ve done bad things; I cared about the future of this country and it’s something that’s still painful. They were there for stealing, rape; some of them didn’t want to talk about what they did. These were men 21, 35, 40, and 50s.
With a population of 7,396 prisoners (as against 3,000+ space available) out of the total of 68,686 prisoners in all states of the federation, Lagos has the highest number of prisoners. This is closely followed by Kano and Rivers States.
Reports claim that these prisons are choked, there are too many people, they are not well fed, and of course, Olatunbosun says these things are true. “As a matter of fact, I can’t keep my favorite dog in that kind of places,” Olatunbosun says.
Mr. Bidemi Oladipupo, also a guest on the show says he’s been to the Kirikiri Medium, Maximum Prisons, and many other prisons in Nigeria. He says that services in prisons may vary a little bit. But for the Kirikiri Medium Prison, there are facilities being put up there now to reach up to 700 inmates.
“What we are in full alignment with is the fact that the Federal Government has been able to sign up this Nigerian correctional services Bill. We are looking for this correctional services to come out more so it can help these inmates. But for now, there are correctional servives going now as some of the inmates attend Open University programs and graduate. Some are gaining valuable training and skills that help them to produce things such as soaps and other things.”
What about arts in Nigerian prisons?
Findings have shown that through the participation in arts and its related activities, inmates can receive and develop a variety of skills and social approval that helps to motivate their rehabilitation and to re-humanize them.
Some of the new skills that artist inmates learn are self-reflection, self-discipline, and communication. This is essential because artist inmates learn how to self-reflect because many times they are expressing their own emotions with their artwork.
To do this, studies admit that they first need to understand where these emotions come from and how they can regulate those emotions because it gives them the avenue to analyze their previous behavior and see the changes that must be made to be a more desirable person.
Art also helps artist inmates communicate and express themselves better because it deals with learning how to verbalize their emotions; how to artistically convey their emotions and thoughts; how to connect to others; and how to work on a team.It is believed that many inmates learn how to see the world in new perspectives because of their studies of art.
Through the help of prison art, it is believed that inmates are able to reestablish and strengthen bonds with their loved ones by talking about and sharing art.
Questions pertinent for now:
How much psychological impact do you think arts would have on inmates?
How do you think the prisons across the country could be decongested?
Click the video below to enjoy the show
Rotimi Oladokun - Prison Superintendent LAGS Command
Yinka Olatunbosun - Journalist with THISDAYLIVE
/ Fellow @WSoyinkaCentre
Bidemi Oladipupo - ED Anchor Heritage (NGO for Prisoners' Rehabilitation) Lagos
Written by Jude Chukwuemeka