In a groundbreaking move to mitigate the excessive overcrowding of its prisons, the State Department for Correctional Services has liberated 7,281 low-risk offenders as of March 2023. This significant step is part of the Department’s broader initiative to decongest the nation’s overtaxed correctional facilities.
In a recent status update on the correctional institutions, Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni acknowledged the daunting challenges presented by prison congestion. Such conditions not only compromise the safety of both inmates and prison staff but also limit the potential for rehabilitation.
“The aim of this initiative is to provide these individuals with a renewed opportunity to assimilate back into society,” Muthoni explained.
As part of the program, the Department has taken extensive measures to involve the freed individuals in community service projects throughout the nation, aiding in their gradual reintroduction to their communities and fostering self-reliance.
The Department’s innovative program extends further to offer educational support, providing over 250 probationers and inmates with the resources necessary to complete their grade test certification.
Moreover, the Department has introduced resource-oriented vocational rehabilitation programs, equipping inmates with valuable skills in fields such as masonry, tailoring, and agriculture, along with access to free primary and secondary education.
Muthoni emphasized the Department’s commitment to forestalling future prison overcrowding by exploring alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms that can prevent minor offenders from ending up in jail.
“We remain engaged with county governments, private sector entities, religious organizations, and individuals to ensure our prisons’ decongestion,” she added.
Recognizing that minor offenders, who struggle to afford cash bail or court-imposed fines, constitute the majority of the inmate population, the Department is reviewing the National Correctional Service policy. This revision aims to further the reform agenda and improve inmate living conditions. The one-inmate, one blanket, one-bed initiative, already providing bedding donated by various stakeholders and human rights organizations, embodies this objective.
Muthoni confirmed these efforts while distributing 2,000 bedding items at the Naivasha maximum prison, accompanied by the president of the International Cure on Human Rights, Mr. Charles Sullivan.
Prison statistics reveal the pressing issue: as of January 2023, the national prison population had swelled to 58,887, significantly exceeding the official capacity of 34,000. This recent effort echoes the country’s actions in 2020 when several inmates, including minor offenders and those serving short and long-term sentences with less than six months remaining, were released to curtail the spread of coronavirus within overcrowded facilities