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PS Beacco lays out ambitious plan to improve, decongest prisons

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Correctional Services PS Salome Beacco.

Correctional Services PS Salome Beacco has unveiled an ambitious reform agenda aimed at modernising and enhancing the efficiency of correctional facilities across the country.

Kenya has a total of 135 prisons, which the PS says are in dire need of renovations.

More accommodation facilities are especially required for mothers with children, along with improvements to water and sanitation systems.

According to the PS, the department will shift its focus to rehabilitating offenders by providing them with skills that can enable them to generate income once released from prison.

To achieve this, new daycare facilities, education and training centers, and vocational training workshops will be set up to equip offenders with various skills, including masonry and food production technology.

“Offenders should be able to work and contribute to the economy while still in prison. They should come out of prison with something to sustain them after incarceration,” stated the PS.

On the social protection front, Beacco says resources will be allocated to acquire medical supplies and build mental health wings in nine maximum security prisons.

Already, the Magereza Level 4 Hospital has officially been handed over to the Correctional Department and is poised to improve the overall healthcare of both staff and inmates.

The 150-bed facility boasts two major theatres, an accident and emergency unit, maternity and dental services, and a morgue among others.

In a bid to modernise operations, plans are underway to automate all correctional services, including revenue collection and offender records, as well as security upgrades, which will include the installation of CCTV cameras, scanners, and metal detectors.

The department further intends to establish e-courts in the 135 facilities in collaboration with the Judiciary to ensure swift access to justice for offenders.

“We are working on ways to address the population of prisons in general by using other alternative means to solve disputes, such as releasing them on parole and non-custodial sentences,” said Beacco.

Agricultural productivity within prisons is also set for a significant boost, with plans to expand farmland, mechanize operations, and increase capital investment.

In addition, efforts to enhance training programs are in place to improve agricultural techniques by introducing irrigation systems and post-harvest storage facilities that will ensure a more robust food supply chain within the prison system.

“Retraining programs for instructors and increased seed capital for raw materials will support these initiatives, ensuring that prison industries can produce marketable goods efficiently,” said Beacco.

The industrial capabilities of prisons are also set for a major upgrade with the revamping of the leather industry at Kitengela and Kamiti Prisons, while modern tools and equipment will be introduced to 108 workshops in various prisons.

Through the affordable housing program, prisons are set to benefit with at least 28,000 units to be constructed for prison staff.

And as Kenya races to achieve the 15 billion trees target by 2032, PS Beacco says the department plans to plant 100 million trees annually within correctional facilities to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The 2024-Economic Survey indicates that the total number of committed prisoners increased by 46.3% to 248,061, resulting in an increase in the prison population per 100,000 population from 329,100 in 2022 to 481,400 in 2023.

Unconvicted prisoners accounted for the majority of the prison population at 67.7% in 2023.

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