Suleja Prison Visit: Lessons Learned
Currently (as I write this) – Freaking out over exams & trying to study without getting distracted. This is a scheduled post, and by the time It appears on the blog, exams will have been done with!
FURTHER EDIT: Lol @ exams will have been done with. Exams were re-scheduled to the end of this week, soo I’m still in exam mode. Enjoy the post anyway!
What would you do if you lost your freedom today?
Do you think you could cope in a prison?
Well, some people don’t have the luxury of simply thinking of what would happen if their freedom was taken/if they would cope in a prison environment. They’re already living the reality.
Suleja is located in Niger State, not too far away a distance (about 1 hour 15 minutes, if the roads are clear) from the Federal Capital Territory. I would say the place is a rural, very hilly area with the usual human activity going on each day. One thing that makes the place interesting, apart from the large attraction known as Zuma Rock, is the Suleja Prison.
As part of our coursework, we developed a project, which was focused on prison de-congestion. We wanted to do something bigger, but due to time constraints had to settle for something on a smaller scale. Prison decongestion is the idea of helping to alleviate the burden of overcrowding which many prisons face. It is centered around bailing out individuals/paying fines.
I’ve never been to an active prison before, as the only one I’ve gone to is Fremantle Prison (in Fremantle, Western Australia) which is now more of a museum. And so, I did not know what to expect. When I first thought of the prisons, I imagined a large stretch of land with buildings scattered all over the place. The more I thought about it, I pondered on the living conditions. I imagined a completely dilapidated area that would cause my heart to wrench. And so, I looked forward to the day of the visit, filled with curiosity.
The first impression was shock. Firstly, the building is located in a residential area. It made me a bit worried because if there was to be a situation where prisoners broke out, they would head for the houses and their inhabitants. It was just so awkwardly placed, surrounded by houses and small businesses. There was no big signboard prior to us getting to that area, and I barely realized the building we passed was the prison until I caught sight of the writing above the entrance door. The inside of the prison was also interesting.
There was a church called ‘Freedom Church’ (interesting name) located just near the entrance. To the left were the women’s cells and the cells for the men also dotted the place. There was an area dedicated to be a kitchen area, and I watched as rough hands chopped green vegetables roughly. We sat in the church area to interview people and there was this constant smoky smell lingering in the air, since the church was next to the kitchen. It was quite an interesting experience, so I’ll share 3 lessons learned.
- Anger Must be Controlled – We went to the women’s side of the prisons and heard some interesting stories. Some of them were there because of anger which was not controlled at the material time. If you have an anger issue, try your hardest to find ways to control it. If you don’t have anger issues, just try your best to assess the situation properly whenever you feel yourself getting angry. Anger can cloud the mind, and sometimes all it takes is one moment of uncontrolled passion for one to land in jail.
One woman had got into a fight and killed somebody accidentally. A funny thing about anger is, sometimes you could carry out a violent act and once the act is done, your eyes clear. You feel shock and return to your senses, only to realize that the damage has been done. Your life could be altered forever due to one moment where you slipped.
This almost happened to Ben Carson, who is now a world renown neurosurgeon. In his book, Gifted Hands, he spoke of how he had anger issues and almost stabbed a schoolmate in a moment of uncontrolled anger. However, the stabbing was not successful, and his eyes cleared instantly.
It was that day he went home and prayed to God to take away his anger problem. Imagine if he had stabbed and caused a fatal injury or even death to the schoolmate! His destiny would have instantly been derailed, and he would become another statistic. What would the world have been without Ben Carson? Think of all those who he was born to help and operate on!
Self control must be practiced at all times possible. How many futures have been derailed because of uncontrolled passion?
- Choose Your Friends Wisely – Another sad realization was that some people were in prison because of their friends introduced them to something or put the blame on them. It was sad. Her so-called friend had introduced one woman, a mother of 3, to the cocaine business. She hadn’t even started the business when she was busted with the drugs and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The saddest thing was that her children were in a whole other state, with an unreliable father. Another guy hid a stolen laptop for a friend and was found with it then arrested. People end up in all sorts of compromising situations because of so-called friends.
One should always be careful, setting strict standards for friendships and sticking to them. Don’t let toxic, wasteful people near you. These people will use you until you get into trouble, and they’ll abandon you. Hearing the stories also reminded me of one of my personal mantras:
While others get away, you could become the scapegoat.
Everybody is different. Don’t think you’ll have the same ‘luck’ as those you are following to do things you shouldn’t.
- Value Your Opportunities – This was a good reminder, as this week I’ve been discussing with my friend about how I feel I am not harnessing my opportunities enough. I have a sewing machine, but haven’t gotten on it since July last year. I really want to, because I have a lot of things in my head and also want to start things.
However, due to laziness & procrastination, I find myself frustrated. We must learn to see opportunities in everything. Don’t take any opportunity/privilege for granted, open your eyes! Opportunities don’t have to be huge, they can be little things – steady electricity, water, internet connection, technology e.g. laptop, phones. You never know how what you’re leaving lying around/taking for granted could help you!
My teacher gave some words of encouragement to the women, and I heard her amazing story. She had been unemployed for 3 years, and even ended up being an apprentice for the tailor who she used to patronise. I also learnt the value of hands. The prison had provided opportunities to learn bead making, hair braiding and sewing but the resources were limited. There was just one sewing machine, and there were no beads left.
I encourage everyone out there to try their hand at learning handwork! There isn’t just beading, hair braiding, makeup, sewing, cooking etc., the possibilities are endless! You never know when the skills might be needed. I believe in being well prepared for a rainy day, because you don’t know when it will come.
On that note, it was quite a good day. However, it exposed the many problems with access to justice in our country.
I hope you can take a few things from my own lessons!
I asked 2 questions at the start of this post, I would love to read your answers! In addition to those – have you ever been to a prison?