You have probably heard horror tales of Kenyan prisons from previous inmates, or as depicted in local films that have represented the actual situation in real prisons.
Did you know there are only 4 punishments prescribed for prisoners in Kenya?
Prison conditions in Kenya have been plagued by overcrowding, poor diet, lack of clean water, poor sanitation coupled with infectious diseases amongst other challenges.
Overcrowding for one, is mostly due to the large number of people held in remand, many of whom are unable to raise bail money and others who have waited for years to have their cases mentioned in court. The duration of time taken to process court appeals is also lengthy, contributing to overcrowding.
According to the World Prison Brief, there are 129 prison facilities in Kenya which host 42,596 inmates as of September 2020.
This population includes both pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners, yet the recommended holding capacity for the prison system was 26,837 in September 2018. It means that Kenyan prisons hold as much as twice the number of inmates they are required to.
Other than prisons, the number of people arrested and detained in police cells is equally worrying. A recent study on the Criminal Justice System in Kenya revealed that an average of 5,000 people were held in different police stations yearly.
Poor Diet in Kenyan Prisons
The diet in Kenyan prisons is extremely poor. In fact people often joke and refer to badly cut vegetables or poorly cooked meals as "prison food".
The portions are also small, of poor nutritional value and badly cooked.
Punishment in Kenyan Prisons
Torture and ill-treatment have commonly been used in these prisons to instill discipline.
Don't get me wrong, the Prison Act CAP 90 part IX section 59 allows for punishment of prisoners, but not in the manners observed.
The four punishment modes prescribed by the law are;
- Corporal punishment not exceeding such amount as may be prescribed;
- Confinement in a separate cell on the prescribed diet for such period as may be prescribed;
- Forfeiture of remission not exceeding such amount as may be prescribed;
- Reduction in stage, or forfeiture of privileges, or postponement of promotion in stage, or forfeiture of all or part of earnings, or removal from any earnings scheme, or reduction in earnings grade, for such period as may be prescribed.
Prisoners are reportedly beaten if they disobey prison rules. A prison officer at Lang’ata Women’s Prison mentioned that whipping, punching and slapping are often used as disciplinary measures.
Death in prisons is not news. Many prisoners die as they serve their sentences as a result of all these unfavorable conditions, including poor medical care.
In the past six years, over 1,714 inmates have died in prison with the largest number of deaths having been 623 in 2013, according to reports by Amnesty International.
Official figures for deaths in prisons are undocumented because information regarding conditions in prisons is classified.
The Ouagadougou Declaration
Considering the aforementioned scenarios, the government of Kenya has failed to protect the lives of Kenyans in custody, causing deaths as a result of torture, ill treatment, communicable diseases and degrading detention conditions.
The Government should ensure that domestic law and practice conform to International Human Rights treaties ratified by Kenya such as the implementation of the Ouagadougou Declaration and plan of action on accelerating Prison and Penal Reforms in Africa.
The government through the Interior Ministry and the Commissioner of Prisons have a responsibility to protect the lives of all Kenyans in custody, as their well-being is entirely in the hands of the state.
They should also ensure prison conditions meet International Human Rights standards as soon as possible, as this has been a plea for quite a long time.
he foregoing is an Article submitted by Mulehi Anne to Pulse Live Kenya for publication, it does not necessarily represent the position of the publisher.
Anne (pictured) is an experienced Communications and Development expert with demonstrated history of working in the civil and social organization industry. She is currently the communications officer of KeNRA, a member of KOGwg, member of the Decoalonize Campaign, a global advocate alumni and an associate fellow of the Global Shapers Community, Nairobi Hub.
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