• Correctional Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni Sunday said alternative dispute mechanisms helps greatly in reducing court backlogs and also decongesting prisons.
• She said prisons are holding double the capacity of what they should contain, thus, end up creating an overwhelming prison management crisis.
The government is urging Kenyans to fully exhaust all family, administrative and religious mechanisms of solving dispute before they contemplate pursuing petty cases in court.
Correctional Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni said alternative dispute resolution mechanisms helps a great deal in not only reducing the courts’ backlogs but also decongesting prisons.
She added that prisons are holding double the capacity they should contain, thus, end up creating an overwhelming prison management crisis.
The PS also called for an-out-of-court settlement on land matters that in most cases take a long time to solve in court.
She thus called for the empowerment of alternative dispute systems which are among others public barazas, Nyumba Kumi, chiefs and village elders.
She added that with the assessment of the nature and magnitude of the case, some matters need to be resolved outside court as they help correct the individual's behaviour and manners rather than converting them to bitter and hard headed individuals.
She therefore asserted the reform process should be geared towards correcting the behaviour and character of the inmate, and not destroying him or her.
"Our purpose is to correct the individual to be a more productive and law abiding citizen. Despite the rehabilitative programmes in prisons, the prisoner can in some instances, fully serve their term and fail to reform, she said.
This is owing to so many reasons that were overlooked before the case was filed in court. The prisoner instead of reforming becomes bitter and even though released becomes more stubborn,"she said.
As such she impressed upon the community to fully and positively utilise the family, administrative and religious systems to offer arbitration and counselling services with an aim to correct and not to punish.
She regretted that most inmates locked up in various prisons across the country are of a prime and productive age, thus denying the country the economic manpower and subsequent massive progression.
Speaking in Ndia , Kirinyaga county, the PS decried that a quarter of inmates are youths of below 35 years.
She blamed ignorance as one of the reasons why many offenders conflict with the law and as such reiterated the need for public sensitisation.
She said out of ignorance, some Kenyans find themselves in trouble with the law for practicing some outlawed cultural practices which clash with the law.
"The community leaders should take up a collective responsibility to guide our people to stay on course with the law because what might be a cultural practice can be illegal in the eyes of the law. Therefore, many may find themselves behind bars out of ignorance for doing what is outlawed," she added.
She also challenged the community to integrate the prisoners into the society once they are released after serving their terms, saying citing many are stigmatised despite having reformed while behind bars.
She also called on religious leaders and faith-based institutions to be at the forefront in inculcating teaching that seeks to promote responsibility, law-compliance and patriotism.
The PS called on parents to frequently advise their children on the need to be respectable and responsible members of the society.
(Edited by V. Graham)