State Department for Correctional Services Principal Secretary (PS) Salome Wairimu has said that plans are underway to decongest prisons with a view to improving living conditions.
To achieve this, the PS said, one of the approaches they had employed was to work hand in hand with the judiciary to upscale issuance of probation orders and community service orders.
“It is our desire that inmates, especially petty offenders instead of serving sentences in prison go and do community service or serve probation terms,” she said.
She said that currently there were over 62,000 inmates in the country out of which about 25, 000 were petty criminals who could be placed under non-custodial sentences to reduce congestion.
Speaking on Thursday at Embu GK Prisons during a familiarization tour in company of among others Commissioner General of Prisons Brigadier John Kibaso, the PS said they were working closely with the office of Chief Justice through the National Commission on Administration of Justice to achieve this.
Additionally, PS Wairimu said they were also scaling up the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to see to it that disputes especially family or land related were arbitrated and resolved locally.
“On the issue of ADR, we are working with the provincial administration and other stakeholders to see to it whether family disputes can be resolved outside the court system,” she said.
She encouraged the community to accept back the offenders who they are trying to rehabilitate in the non-custodial program so that they can be able to be reintegrated in the society and become productive.
“We are moving away from imprisonment and punishment of inmates to the program of reformation and rehabilitation and we ask members of the society to give them the benefit of the doubt and a second chance,” the PS said.
She also urged those wishing to be set free under presidential pardon commonly known as Power of Mercy to make a relevant application for consideration.
The PS also said they had received a request from some inmates who want to be enrolled in a virtual university program, saying they were working with the Ministries of ICT and Education to work out the modalities.
At the same time, the PS reported that inmates’ visitation had resumed following suspension in 2020 as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19 disease.
“We have now reviewed that and have allowed them to have their loved ones visit them but within the set limits,” she said.