Graduated with Law degree in prison; Inspiring story of inmates who found calling in jail

After graduating with law degrees from the University of London while still behind bars, these Kenyan prisoners now represent and secure freedom for fellow inmates.

Isaac is 35 years of age and has been in Kamiti Prison for more than 10 years

For Isaac Kimaru and Alex Dimba, being jailed did not stop them from practising law behind bars.

The two are beneficiaries of the Justice Changemaker Programme by Justice-defenders.org which supports prisoners and prison officers to get a world-class education in jail.

Alex was sentenced to death which was later commuted to life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend.

He had already graduated from Egerton University with a first-class degree in agricultural economics. He was thrown behind bars just as he was starting his masters program.

It was painful to attend the court trial with an incompetent advocate whose only interest was soliciting money from my family.

So when African Prisons Project (APP) came into Naivasha Prison in 2014 and introduced the legal studies that they would be offering through the University of London, I was among the first to join the programme,” he said in a past interview.

Having graduated in 2018, Alex is now able to offer legal advice to his fellow inmates at Naivasha Maximum Security Prison.

Now with the knowledge I have, I am able to draft legal documents both for my colleagues and myself in the courts - all this from prison,” he explained.

He is not allowed to represent his clients in court but that doesn’t prevent him from succeeding in the courts. He has been able to secure freedom for a number of suspects.

As for Isaac, the APP programme was a lifesaver that helped him cope with the new environment after he was thrown behind bars.

When I encountered APP I felt a sense of belonging and the dark cloud that had been hanging around me disappeared. Since my inception, my priorities have changed for the better.

I have gotten to understand through the experience and skills that I have acquired, that justice is not meant only for those with money - it should be given to everyone - but it is quite difficult for people in our country to get the help they require,” he said.

Isaac had always dreamt of being a lawyer and because he is not serving a life sentence, he hopes to join the Kenya School of Law and get admitted to the bar.

I want to represent people in court and be a servant to the community. I have been given my LLB freely and don’t mind giving back,” he said.

A lot of Kenyans have found themselves behind bars for lack of proper legal representation.

Chief Justice Martha Koome recently announced that all robbery with violence suspects will be granted free legal representation paid for by the government if they cannot afford.

It is hereby directed that every person accused of robbery with violence must be provided with legal representation as a matter of right as provided in the constitution.

The right to legal representation is entitled to all accused persons including those charged with capital offences. However, the practice has been that in regard to capital offences, only those charged with murder often receive legal representation funded by the state,” she said.

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