Langata Women's Prison unveil detention facility for terror convicts

The facility aims to protect and promote human rights standards throughout the criminal justice system.

Main entrance to the Langata Women's Maximum Prison in Nairobi.

The British Council in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have handed over a newly constructed holding block for terror convicts to authorities at Langata Women's Prison.

The separation block which has the capacity to hold 12 people will separate criminals considered to be high risk from the general population.

The reason for the separation is to try and put a stop at radicalisation at the facility. The Kenya National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism defines radicalisation as a process that:

"Exploits the psychological, politico-religious and ideological conditioning of individuals to believe that they are part of a threatened or combative collective identity, in order to socialise them to violent extremism."

Speaking during the handing over ceremony on Wednesday, Deputy British High Commissioner to Kenya Josephine Gauld said the facility was built at a cost of Sh10.7 million.

“This is very important because we do not want these convicts who have already been radicalised in a range of different settings getting to radicalise other vulnerable prisoners once detained.

So we want to keep them separate and run a rehabilitation programme to help them understand what they have done and really think about the consequences of their actions,” she said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Wyclife Ogallo said the block will help with rehabilitation of high risk offenders and called on prison staff to uphold integrity while handling them.

“We’d rather they be hosted where they are not able to radicalize the general population,” said Mr Ogallo.

A 2021 report by KNSCVE revealed that detained extremists select vulnerable inmates and use one-on-one proselytization (attempt to convert someone to one’s own religious faith) to recruit followers.

They manage to do this by offering themselves as ‘trustworthy guides’ propagating religion as a means to find identity and meaning in life.

“Recruiters exploit vulnerability of their fellow prisoners by offering prayers, psychosocial support, and financial assistance both during incarceration and after release,” the report stated.

The facility which is the first of its kind at any Kenyan penal institution will soon be surrounded by a perimeter wall backed up by two watch towers to ensure maximum security.

It will also have two guardrooms, and will be able to provide safe and comfortable environment for the convicts children.

According to prison officials, the country is currently holding less than 100 terrorism and violent extremism-related convicts in its 129 penal institutions.

The new facility was built after experts from KNSCVE recommended separating terror suspects at correctional facilities across the country.

The experts emphasised the separation be done in a manner that does not dehumanise the convicts’ rights as human beings.

As a strategy, this requires careful handling to ensure that violent extremist prisoners do not get to form exclusive groups behind bars, while also ensuring there is no discrimination.

Aside from prisons other radicalisation hotspots include educational and religious institutions, the internet, media and refugee camps.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke