5000 petty offenders to be released in prisons decongestion plan

An estimated 5,000 petty offenders will be released from prison in the coming months to decongest the facilities, a program initiated by the Judiciary and the Prisons services.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i says the planned release will begin next month and will run in tandem with the expansion of probation and after-service program targeting the reintegration of the offenders.

Speaking at the launch of training program for newly recruited probation officers at the Kenya School of Government, the CS said prisons are struggling with congestion following an increase of petty offenders among the inmates.

“We don’t have the resources to keep the number of offenders that we have. Some of them we are keeping because of Ksh600 fine for traffic offence! We are keeping some matatu violator who packed on a yellow line. Are we serious? “I hope in the next phase of the decongestion campaign between May and June, we will get out about 5000 or so of petty offenders so that we can move them into the probation service program,” the CS said.

Justice Cecilia Githua who chairs the Community Service Order National Committee that coordinates the probation services said 3,000 inmates had be released from prisons to serve in community service from January this year.

The prisons will also let go from their custody another 4,620 petty offenders beginning next month to decongest the the current population of 53, 438 prisoners .
Of the number, 30,689 are convicts while 22,799 are inmates.

CS Matiang’i said the government will also mobilise chiefs and Assistant County Commissioners (formerly District Officers) and the National Government Administration structure to work closely with probation officers in the prisoners’ integration program.

The Government will also reach out to religious leaders and the relevant faith-based institutions to complement prisoners’ integration efforts and to tap into their network of after-service programs.

Dr Matiang’i raised concerns with the high levels of recidivism among convicts and challenged probation officers to monitor offenders closely to ensure that they don’t relapse.

“A second time and third time and fourth term offenders are evidence that our after-care work is not very successful. The character of success in this work will be demonstrated by a reduction of repeat offenders amongst us and how active the after-care members become in their societies and how well they become integrated,” he said.

One thousand probation officers are to be hired and trained in a program jointly funded by the government, the European Union and the United Nations Office in Nairobi. Already 600 officers have been recruited with a half of them already trained. They’ll join the 860 officers already in the service.

Under the Community Service Orders Act, petty offenders and those with three or less years remaining in their sentences can be committed to community service.

This may include providing labour in construction and maintenance of roads, environmental conservation activities and maintenance work in public schools and hospitals among others.

The offer for release to community service however does not apply to prisoners serving capital offences, sexual, economic or drug-related crimes.

Currently, the prisons are holding 6,073 petty offenders while 955 others have less than three years remaining to serve.


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