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Attitudes Toward Crime, Punishment and Rehabilitation: A Study of Prison Staff and Inmates in Plateau State, Nigeria

The prison is one of the institutions responsible for societal response to violence through the incarceration of violent offenders. Paradoxically, it is also a setting in which interpersonal violence is frequently reported. This takes the form of inmate-on-inmate violence, staff-on-inmate violence, inmates-on-staff violence, and inmates rioting. Violence within the prison is influenced by several factors including the attitude of inmates and staff towards crime and punishment, the relationship between inmates and staff, and the quality of services within the prison. The study, conducted in five Nigerian prisons, examines attitudes of prison staff and inmates toward crime, punishment and rehabilitation. It further analyses the attitudes of prison staff and inmates toward each other and the adequacy of penal policies and treatment measures in reducing crime and violence in Nigeria.  Literature review demonstrates that attitudes toward crime and punishment are influenced mostly by sensational media images of violent crimes which heighten fear of victimization. This may not be a reflection of the attitudes of prison officers and inmates. Preliminary analysis from the study revealed differences in attitudes of staff and inmates toward crime, punishment and rehabilitation. While inmates emphasised socioeconomic deprivation as causes of crime and violence, staff emphasised a combination of personal gain and economic deprivation.  Findings however revealed similarities in attitudes of staff and inmates on the necessity of punishment for recidivists and violent offences like murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and rape. As an intervention strategy, both staff and inmates advocate rehabilitation through the provision of empowerment programmes like education, skills acquisition and employment opportunities.  These findings serve as a guide to policy formulation on how to reduce crime and violence in Nigeria and the wider society through the criminal justice system.