By Victor Gotevbe

Prison congestion is not alien to Society’s character and value erosion. The experience has been hellish for most of these inmates whose freedom freezes at the point of incarceration. Dr. Jude Ememe, Founder of Joy Bringers Foundation, informed Diplomatic Watch in a chat, that his Foundation has made some interventions that have ameliorated the situation of some prison inmates in the four prisons in Lagos State, Nigeria, and thereby help some of them on their discharge to reintegrate into the society.

The foundation was established in March, 2010. It runs a three month intervention programme – the Joy Bringers Character personality re-characterization programme- borne out of the fact that incarceration does not translate to reformation. Sixteen (16) subjects are taught. Some of them include: Conflict resolution, Values Orientation, anger management, family life, Purpose driven life, Stewardship, Conscience Management and Skills Acquisition. Over 5000 prison inmates have benefitted. These interventions are not without testimonies. Hence, we tell some of the success stories of these inmates.

Testimony I

An inmate recounted how he was an instrument of electoral violence, being used by perverted and greedy politicians to steal ballot boxes to rig elections in the past. He was grateful to God for the Character Training School programme. He confessed that his conscience came alive from the very first day he attended lectures on Building Character. He said he became ashamed of his past life as he now understands the true essence of life. He shared with the audience how the training has transformed his life from being a tool of destabilization and violence to an agent of change and progress. He promised to go and influence his community to embrace a life of purpose.

 

Testimony II

Another inmate confessed that he was once a notorious armed-robber, and that his last operation with his 4-man gang led to the death of three of his gang members. He was the only survivor arrested. He thanked God for the training because he was transformed from the harden criminal he used to be. Before the training, according to him, he nursed bitterness against the police and the society over the death of his gang members who were all killed. “My life has been very way-ward as far back as I could remember”. In his narrations, “crime has been my life. I don’t know any other life apart from crime until Joy Bringers Character Training School (JBCTS) taught me how to live a better life. I had deep hatred in my heart against the society – the police, government and everybody. I wanted to avenge the death of my gang members before I joined Character School but now, I am no longer the same person that came into prison”.

Testimony III

One of the inmates, a character ambassador who graduated from the 2nd batch at Ikoyi Prison shared how the programme has changed his life. He is now a devoted worshipper of God. He is now a man who lives a life of purpose. According to him, “the classes on how to live a purpose driven life, vision, mission and values have made tremendous impact on my life. “I have discovered my God’s given talents and I have started exploiting them to better the world around me. Even though, I am still in prison, I have written two inspirational books that will open the eyes of other prison inmates to wake up to a life of responsibility and positive influence.” One of the titles of his books is ‘Nigeria is not your problem – you are the problem of Nigeria’. He is now a character ambassador even in the prison he counsels and mentors other inmates. In his words “from a confused person I was two years ago, I am now consistently displaying godly virtues that have earned me leadership position in the Christian community in the prison”.

 

Testimony IV

Another testifier, shared how his fury-ruled life landed him in several troubles including the loss of his job at a multi-national oil company. He was full of commendation for the JBCTS for giving him the privilege to overcome his anger through such courses on Anger Management and Conflict Resolution. “I am no longer a slave of anger-demon, rather, I have learnt how to rule over my emotions and resolve conflict with the people around me and the conflict within me. My life is now peaceful. I am no longer hurt as I used to be. I have learnt to forgive people who hurt me. Bitterness, sadness and resentment had eaten deep into my being and made me suffer untold health problems. People are now attracted to me unlike before when no one wants to come near me. I have gained a lot from the training. I now understand why things are the way they are and how I can overcome my challenges in life. Now I am happy because I have been taught how to be a victor and not a victim.”

 

Testimony V

Yet another inmate thanked God for reconciling him with his family. He explained that he got the wisdom to resolve his family problems in the Family Life Class of the JBCTS. He said his eyes were open to his faults. He decided to apply the life principles provided by the Family Counselor. “My wife and children now visit me. I am no longer hostile to them and they have also responded positively to me. I have learnt to be a better father to my children and a better husband to my wife. Before, I had this case; I used to beat my wife over every little quarrel. I never appreciated her because I was not faithful to her. My children always cry whenever I beat their mother which had become very frequent because I was alcoholic. I learned about the danger of abusing alcohol to induce oneself in the Mental Health Class.”

 

Testimony VI

This female inmate shared how she was formerly an aggressive inmate and how her aggressiveness was even displayed in class when she was virtually rude to the Training Manager in the classroom. She was surprised at the maturity and firmness that was displayed in handling her. She was glad that her life has been transformed from being a violent woman to being a more responsible woman. She blamed her attitude on environmental factors. “I thank Joy Bringers for opening my understanding. I now have a better and more positive attitude going through my present life challenges.” she submitted.

 

Testimony VII

One of the inmates testified, how the lecture on ‘Engaging God’s Principles in Business and Career’ has made great impact on his life. According to him, “my life was full of fraud and manipulations. I have had several troubles with my business associates. I have lost several contacts. I have had several ups and downs which have tempted me to do stupid things. I now understand the fundamental principles of achieving durable success. I have learnt from the mistake of my past. If this is all what I have come to prison to learn, I am grateful to God for the opportunity of coming to the prison to learn these principles of living.”

“I thought nothing good can come out of me again. So I gave in to sorrow and depression. I became dejected and thought my life was over until I joined JBCTS. My hope was rekindled. Even though I am in a prison correctional facility, I know I am free. I eagerly look forward to when I will be discharged so that I can make positive impact in my society.”

The foregoing testimonies from the prison inmates have brought to the fore the need not only to sustain this program but to extend it to all the prisons in Nigeria so that many people can be reached. Speaking to Diplomatic Watch, Dr. Ememe stated that “it is clear that investing in the personality re-characterization of these inmates can be the greatest form of rehabilitation among the Nigerian prison inmates. I am therefore challenging corporate bodies, and well-meaning individuals including churches to explore ways of collaboration with the Nigerian Prison Authorities as we believe that a large number of prison inmates will eventually be released and reintegrated into the society. If they are adequately prepared prior to reintegration, it will make for a healthier and safer society to live in.”

The Foundation seeks collaboration that will help to broaden the scope of the programme. It will ensure more inmates benefit from the programme. It will strengthen its effort in preparing inmates for release and reintegration into the society. It will also help to reduce the high incidence of re-incarceration.

In collaborating with Joy Bringers, individuals and organizations will be contributing to the Federal Government prison reform agenda. It is worthy of note that “over  80% of the prison inmates in Lagos are young people and investing in them is investing in the future” added Dr. Ememe.