The Nigerian Prisons Service derives its operational powers from CAP 366 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 to
- take into lawful custody all those certified to be so kept by courts of competent jurisdiction;
- produce suspects in courts as and when due;
- identify the causes of their anti-social dispositions;
- set in motion mechanisms for their treatment and training for eventual reintegration into society as normal law abiding citizens on discharge; and
- administer Prisons Farms and Industries for this purpose and in the process generate revenue for the government.
The Prisons Service in Nigeria is a Federal phenomenon. That is to say that the Prison is exclusively a Federal Government concern which means that no State for now has the power in Law to operate or maintain prisons.
At the moment, the following prisons and prison related institutions spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria:-
- A total of one hundred and forty-five (145) convict prisons
- Eighty-three (83) Satellite Prison camps
- Twelve (12) Major Farm Centers
- Nine (9) Cottage Industries
- Nine (9) Subsidiary Farms
- One hundred and twenty-four (124) Market Gardens
- Three (3) Borstals .
- One (1) Open Prison Camp
- One (1) Staff College
- Four (4) Training Schools.
The conventional convict prisons are for the remand of both the convicted and awaiting trial inmates. There are two major types of convict prisons operational in Nigeria today. These are the Maximum and the Medium Security Prisons. The Maximum Security Prisons take into custody all classes of prisoners including condemned convicts; lifers, long term prisoners etc. Even so, we have an unofficial classification of these Maximum Security Prisons in terms of heightened security. This explains why a high risk prisoner could be sent to one Maximum Security Prison as against another.
The Medium Security Prison on the other hand also takes into custody both remand inmates and convicts. However, short term convicts constitute the bulk of the inmates that should ordinarily be found in the Medium Prisons.
The Satellite Prisons can be described as intermediate prisons camps set up mainly in areas with courts that are far from the main prisons. They serve the purpose of providing Remand Centers especially for those whose cases are going on in courts within the areas. When convicted, long term prisoners could be moved to appropriate convict prisons to service their terms.
The Farm Centers are Agricultural Prison Camps set up primarily to train inmates in Agro-based vocations so that when they discharge they will have Agro-based skills to depend upon. The convicts are expected in addition to be taught to appreciate the dignity of labour. The Farm Centers are large mechanized farms that are located in the food-producing areas of the different geopolitical regions of the country.
Subsidiary Farms and Market Gardens are Agricultural extension projects usually attached to some State Prisons Headquarters for the same purpose as state above. They are made up of vegetable-producing market gardens, poultry and piggery farms etc. Apart from training inmates in all these agro-based vocations, these endeavours are expected to yield revenue to the State.
The Borstal Institutions are for the remand and treatment of juvenile offenders. At the moment, the Prisons Service has only three (3) of such in Kaduna and Ilorin in the North and Abeokuta in the South. Plans are underway to build more to take care of the cases of juveniles who are increasing in numbers and who because of their age should not only be mixed with adult prisoners but should be deserving of different treatment methods from those of the adults.
For the purposes of staff development, the Nigeria Prisons runs four (4) Training Institutions. This is the Prison Staff College, Kaduna, which trains new officers and retrains serving ones. The Service also has three training schools for the training and retraining of junior staff.