• Concern over low budget allocation.
• Department facing a shortage of staff.
Congestion is hurting service delivery in prisons.
According to data from the prisons department, 53,975 inmates are held across the country, nearly double the capacity of the institutions.
Of the number, 33,294 have been convicted, while 20,621 are on remand. This was revealed at the end of the two-day National Council on Administration of Justice conference at Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha.
Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogalo said plans are underway to set up new prisons and expand the current one to fix the crisis. The state had gazetted 17 new prisons to address the issue.
Kenya has 129 penal institutions, which include nine maximum prisons, 40 medium, 70 semi-closed and one youth collection training centre.
“Of the number in prison, 777 are condemned, 5,999 are lifers, 290 have mental cases and 358 are minors who have accompanied their mothers,” he said.
“Currently, the number of inmates who have surpassed our capacity is 23,901, but the government is committed to addressing this,” Ogalo said.
Despite the challenges, Ogalo noted that prison personnel are making efforts to reform the rising number of inmates.
“We are in the process of installing CCTV in all the prisons. We have metal detectors and mobile phone jammers, and are reinforcing our walls to avoid any case of inmates escaping,” he said.
He added that the Judiciary had built two courts inside Shimo La Tewa and Kamiti prisons to deal with hardcore criminals and terror suspects.
For her part, Charity Kagwe from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the organisation was committed to supporting the criminal justice system.
The UN office is working with the Judiciary to make sure case backlog is reduced by 50 per cent by 2022.
“We are working with the prisons and other arms of government to make sure the issue of congestion in prisons is addressed,” Kagwe said.
She told the conference that the UN body is fully behind the bail and bond policy, noting that if fully implemented, it will fix the congestion problem.
(Edited by F'Orieny)