Stepping out from Nairobi West Prison into the limelight, Benjamin Mutunga is struck by the overwhelming number of people waiting to receive him. The long drive home soon begins and he marvels at the Nairobi Expressway that was built when he was away from home.
The city soon fades behind and gives way to the vast Kapiti plains. After two hours, Benjamin arrives in his neighborhood and everyone, from the local security representatives to church leaders, seems to be walking quickly with joyous faces as they receive him at his village in Muthengei, Machakos County.
Though looking confused on their expectations, he seems excited to be finally back home.
In June 2023, Benjamin was released from prison after serving a six years sentence. What awaited him was not just a reunion with loved ones, but also an outpouring of support from his community. Accompanied by three chaplains from the Nairobi West Prison, Crime Si Poa Wellness Officer Ms. Claire Kwamboka, and Programmes lead Ms. Flavier Mwika, Benjamin lets a deep and joyful sound rise from his soul.
Upon conviction, Benjamin never imagined that he would regain freedom. “I thought about my family, my community, and my business and wondered how I got myself into such a place. I was so devastated, lost hope and sometimes I thought my end had come. However, I came to learn that prison was not a detention place, but a correctional facility, which had many opportunities to help one reform. This is how I got introduced to Crime Si Poa, a youth-centered organization that educates and empowers young people to build ownership around safety, justice, and socio-economic issues. I am glad that they not only target young people but also the older generation,” he excitedly says.
Flavier Mwika says some of the opportunities Crime Si Poa offers to inmates include training them to be paralegals so that they can support other inmates and the community to understand the law and access justice. “We also offer spiritual guidance and psycho-education as many inmates go through mental health challenges during their incarceration, with research showing high levels of depression and anxiety among inmates. “Detention does not derogate the rights and fundamental freedoms all human beings are entitled to,” says Flavier.
Benjamin actively participated in the psychoeducation classes that were very instrumental in helping him deal with anger, develop resilience and self-acceptance. Prior to his conviction, he had been involved in drugs and substance use. “The sensitization forums in the prison have really been instrumental in helping me stop using drugs. I have also learned to let go and ask for forgiveness following my actions that cost my freedom. I felt equally guilty and pained when my daughter passed away during my incarceration. I thank Lavington Vineyard church for helping me with spiritual guidance,” says Benjamin.