Saturday, 2 July 2016
OPERATIONALISING ARTICLE 51 OF THE CONSTITUTION ON RIGHTS OF DETAINED PERSONS
The recent ordeal of the Pangani 6 and Muthaiga 2 shed light on the pathetic state of prison facilities and rights of detained persons in Kenya.
Back in 2015, the Senate of Kenya reviewed Article 51 of the Constitution and established a Select Committee to recommend reforms to the Prisons and Borstals Act. I am the Vice Chair of this Committee.
Over the last one week we have been in Sweden to meet senior government officials and to interrogate their penal system. We have seen a society that lays emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment; where prisoners are called clients and treated with dignity because everyone deserves a second chance. In Kenya prison is a forum for punishment, congestion, sodomy, diseases and all forms of rights abuses.
We thank the Swedish government for agreeing to continue with their funding and technical assistance for human capacity improvement in Kenyan prisons. We cannot reach the levels of Sweden overnight, but we must review our laws and define a penal philosophy that focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
My Committee is also investigating widespread grabbing of land belonging to prisons in Kenya. Almost every prison has lost land to grabbers whi sit in very high positions in society. Working with the National Lands Commission, we have already identified these individuals and will name and shame them and ensure the land goes back to the public.
We will also make recommendations on how to improve the welfare of prison and probation officers, how to operationalize community service as an alternative way of dealing with light offenders and how Counties can implement social services that discourage recidivism and support the rehabilitation of released prisoners.
We should not talk about prison reforms only when leaders are arrested. The right thing to do is to do it for all Kenyans.
SENATOR MOSES OTIENO KAJWANG, MP
HOMA BAY COUNTY