COVID19 PRECAUTIONS

Judiciary orders petty offenders freed over coronavirus

Activists have asked the courts to release inmates on a case by case basis.

In Summary

• On Tuesday 67 petty offenders were released in Kilifi county.

• Justice Reuben Nyakundi of the Malindi Law Courts ordered the release of the offenders after reviewing their files. 

Inmates in Kakamega Main Prison during a meeting with the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee on April 24, 2019.
ATTENTIVE: Inmates in Kakamega Main Prison during a meeting with the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee on April 24, 2019.
Image: CALISTUS LUCHETU

The Judiciary has ordered petty offenders in jail or remand be freed to forestall any risk of coronavirus outbreak in the prisons. 

On Tuesday 67 petty offenders were released in Kilifi county.

Justice Reuben Nyakundi of the Malindi Law Courts ordered the release of the offenders after reviewing their files. 

The Judiciary said in its social media that the move was part of efforts to decongest the prisons to mitigate the Covid-19 outbreak of.

 

On Monday, 23 inmates accused of petty offences from Wundanyi GK Prison were also released. 

Judge Farah Amin released the 20 men and three women on recommendations of Wundanyi resident magistrate Emily Nyakundi. 

The presiding judge decided against releasing a 24th individual as the case is still under review.

Most of the inmates had been charged with offences like creating a disturbance, selling alcoholic drinks without licence and possession of narcotics of minimal quantity.

"The inmates were serving sentences of less than one year each as of March 17. They were released unconditionally," a source told the Star.  

The move follows agitations by civil society groups for the release of petty offenders on a case by case review to depopulate prisons.

The activists say congestion in the prisons as the country deals with the public health emergency of covid19 outbreak could worsen the situation. 

Last week, the Kenya Human Rights Commission called for the release of prisoners serving sentences of six months or less.  

 

There are about 54,000 inmates and pre-trial remandees in the country.

The commission also wanted those held in remand stations for misdemeanour offences released unconditionally. 

They called for the safety of those detained for serious offences checked constantly to avoid infections.

 The Ministry of Interior also banned visits to prisons for 30 days from last week to forestall any health emergency in the institutions.

 

The order applies to the 107 prison lines, borstal institutions, and youth corrective training institutions, better known as approved schools, to protect the health system of the facilities. 

The injunction has also been extended to prisons staff visitors.

Permanent Secretary Zeinab Hussein said the ban is precautionary and intended to minimise a prisoner’s face-to-face contact with the civilians.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome on Monday also called for the release of prisoners serving terms of two years or less to reduce pressure on the prisons. 

"Most of the prisons do not even have enough food and water. Holding the inmates there is not good given the emergency we are staring at," she said in a TV show. 

(edited o. owino)