• The government stopped all visitations in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the penal institutions that are already congested.
• The move led to increased cases of depression within the prisons.
The plan to reopen prisons for visitations has gained momentum, with over 30,000 inmates vaccinated against Covid-19.
More than 90 per cent of prison staff have already received their first jab.
In March 2020, the government stopped all visitations in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the penal institutions that are already congested.
The move led to increased cases of depression within the prisons.
Prisons senior assistant commissioner Kennedy Aluda said they had received 100,000 doses of the vaccine from the Ministry of Health.
He termed the ongoing vaccination exercise smooth, apart from a few inmates who had refused to be inoculated. The matter has been resolved, he said.
“We have so far vaccinated over 60 per cent of the over 52,000 inmates and 90 per cent of the workforce and their families,” Aluda said.
He exuded confidence that the exercise would be completed by next week, saying they were working closely with the Health ministry.
“One of the main reasons for the mass vaccination is to make sure that all inmates are vaccinated before we reopen our doors for visitations,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Interior CAS Winnie Guchu admitted that the closure of prisons had taken a toll on the inmates.
She said cases of depression had increased among inmates but was confident this would be resolved once visitations resume.
“In all the prisons we have visited, the inmates have called for the reintroduction of the visitations and the vaccination exercise will lead to reopening,” Guchu said.
Earlier, the Kenya Red Cross and the Prisons department had entered into a pact to offer counselling sessions to inmates.
According to Red Cross, the most affected were inmates serving long-term sentences.
Deputy secretary general Annette Msabeni said mental health was a major challenge in the country’s prisons.
“Some of those affected are parents who have been following the welfare of their families through the visits,” she said.
To address this, Msabeni said they had issued mobile phones and donated credit to the Prisons department to assist the inmates to reach out to their relatives.
Edited by A.N