By Levis Jilani
In the heart of the sprawling Kahawa West suburb of Nairobi County, lies the urban penitentiary of Kamiti Medium Security Prison. Housing hundreds of inmates way beyond its capacity; with the majority silently wrestling with delayed appeals, separation from loved ones and striving for redemption and a chance at a brighter future, it is here, that a beacon of hope has emerged – the Legal Aid Clinic.
The clinic set up by Crime Si Poa in partnership with the prison administration opened its doors with a mission to provide legal assistance, training, and awareness to both inmates as well as staff. We are giving a voice to those who felt voiceless and skillset to the powerless within the justice system to enable them access justice.
Crime Si Poa legal officer Sharon Jemutai says the clinic will help in securing expedited court dates for inmates to attend their appeal hearings. “Whereas some inmates have been wrongfully convicted and need to seek justice, others who have been found guilty need to go through the correction and rehabilitation process to rejoin society upon release as productive members. To that end, Crime Si Poa has dedicated time to assist inmates in matters related to the criminal justice system. ” Sharon says.
Many inmates suffer due to delayed cases and appeals. They face systemic poverty induced barriers to accessing justice. “While many inmates may not be aware of their right to expeditious determination of judicial matters, limited access to legal resources and representation hampers their right to fair trial.” Sharon adds.
According to the Kenya Prisons Service, the surge in numbers of the prison population has resulted in overcrowding and challenges in providing inmates with a conducive environment for serving their sentences and access to technical skills training that they can apply upon reintegration into society.
Kamiti Medium Prison primarily houses inmates serving sentences of less than ten years. The bi-weekly Crime Si Poa legal awareness sessions have proved to be a big hit with measurable impact within the first month of operation. We are launching, in the first week of October, the training of 40 inmates and staff as paralegals under a Ford Foundation sponsored project. This comprehensive training will be a major boost for inmates who will be taught legal skills on self-representation and leadership, as well as staff who will not only assist the inmates for sustainability of the project, but who will also run awareness sessions amongst other officers.
During her inaugural visit at the Prison, Permanent Secretary, State Department of Correctional Service Ms. Salome Muhia-Beacco stated that the government was working to decongest its prisons and empower the inmates through technical training and skills building that will serve them well in their communities upon their release.
Sharon adds that Crime Si Poa is committed to growing the transformational partnership with the prison department.
To know more about our work in prisons and how you can support, visit : Prison and Reintegration Program (Phoenix) – Crime Si Poa