The State Department for Correctional services has released over 23,000 petty offenders in the ongoing reforms to decongest prisons.
State Department for Correctional Services Principal Secretary Salome Muhia said that the department plans to further review the sentences of an additional 5,000 inmates to attain its target of releasing over 35,000 prisoners by the end of 2023. Some 7,281 petty offenders had been released by March this year.
Muhia who was on an official tour of duty to all prison facilities in Kisumu County on Friday, promised to work closely with the Judiciary and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system to exploit the community service orders, probation and other non-custodial options to decongest prison facilities countrywide.
“I’m urging all other development partners to come on board to support the prisons decongestion program to ensure that prisoners live a dignified life in line with articles 28 and 43 of the constitution which demands that every person should live in dignity,” she stated at a press briefing at the Kodiaga Maximum Prison.
The PS added that the government would also tap on the available 135 probation and Aftercare stations across the nation to push the judiciary to put offenders with petty offenses under community service.
The problem of overcrowding with some penal institutions holding double the expected capacity has been regarded as a contributing factor to poor prison conditions in the country. The challenge has posed a management crisis making it difficult to sustain the inmates with basic needs like food, medical care and sanitation facilities.
At the same time, Muhia disclosed that the renovation of the sewerage system at the Kodiaga Maximum Prison is 25pc underway and is expected to be accomplished by December 2023 to address the problem of environmental pollution in the area.
“Apart from Kisumu, we have also begun construction of modern sewerage systems in Lodwar and Naivasha prisons with a target to roll out similar projects in all other stations across the country in line with our commitment to tackling climate change menace,” stated the PS.
To further contribute to combating the adverse effects of climate change and increase forest cover, the Correctional Department intends to utilize 20pc of its land to plant a billion trees in line with President William Ruto’s directive to plant 15 billion tree seedlings by 2032.
“Our target in the Correctional services sector comprising of the administration, Kenya Prison Service, Probation and Aftercare service is to plant at least 100 million trees in 2023 and progressively in the next 10 years plant another 900 million trees so that 20 pc of all our land under the correctional services is under tree coverage,” she said.
Muhia hailed the skills development and training programs offered to inmates at various prison institutions aimed at empowering them for smooth reintegration into society.
She added that the state is partnering with other stakeholders to refurbish the training curriculum and modernize the workshop equipment in all prisons to boost the standards of training and equip the prisoners with up-to-date skills that are needed in the market.
The department in collaboration with other partners donated blankets, detergents, sanitary towels, and tissue papers to the inmates at the Kodiaga Maximum Prison and distributed children’s clothes to babies accompanying their mothers serving sentences at the Kisumu Women’s Prison.
Also in attendance during the tour were Commissioner General of Prisons (Rtd) John Warioba, Secretary of Probation and After Care Services Mary Mbau, Nyanza Region Prison Commander Patrick Nyaachi among other senior department officials.
Reporting by KNA