Unleashed – The Justice Warriors in our Prisons  

Crime Si Poa has embarked on an intensive justice outreach and legal empowerment program aimed at bridging the gap in legal knowledge and awareness amongst the underserved and vulnerable members of the society. 

The first phase of the training under the Sheria Mashinani (grassroots law) project of the Access to Justice program, and targeting inmates and staff within 5 Kenyan prisons, as well as community members in Kisumu, Vihiga and Nairobi counties respectively has so far seen a record 170 beneficiaries complete the course work within the last 5 months. 

With legal aid in Kenya still largely reserved for murder suspects and child offenders, most inmates facing equally serious cases in our courts, and who previously faced injustice due to inability to afford legal representation, have since gained legal knowledge and skills that have come in handy in advancing their cases in court. 

According to Ms. Sylvia Morwabe  the Programs Director at Crime Si Poa, fairness and equity are fundamental principles on the Constitutional right to fair trial and representation and the paralegal training focuses on equipping inmates and staff with knowledge on accessing and demanding justice. 

“I appreciate the support we have received from the entire leadership of our partners, the Kenya Correctional Services and which has enabled the smooth roll-out of the project. I similarly applaud the inmates and prison staff who enrolled for the program in order to serve the wider prison population and also use the same skill set upon release.” said Sylvia. 

The trained paralegals assist their fellow colleagues in navigating the complex web that is, the justice system. Such knowledge transfer is impactful given that majority of inmates are illiterate and poor.  

“I am delighted with the training Crime Si Poa has been taking us through. It’s more impactful than I expected. I feel empowered and prepared for life after release. I would like to develop enough legal experience to be able to train my fellow inmates and other members of my community,” said John, one of the inmates’ trainees at Thika Main Prison. 

A key outcome of the project is the revelation that joint training of inmates and prison officers has greatly boosted the rehabilitation process and fostered high level of discipline and leadership among the inmates.   

“The group work and classes are excellent, and the trainers are very knowledgeable of the law. One of the most valuable things that I really enjoy from the program is the friendship that I have developed with several inmates. We get together every couple of weeks to catch up, this gives them a feeling of being loved, “said David Kamau an officer at Thika Prison for Men. 

The comprehensive training covered various topics including: appeal drafting skills, the court process, criminal procedure, Law of Evidence, community organizing, fair trial provisions and alternative dispute resolution amongst others. It also had the practical, but fun side of holding mock trails which was done as part of group work. 

“We are delighted to note that whereas some of our beneficiaries’ have used the skills learnt from the trainings to win their freedom in court, some have secured well-paying employment opportunities as a result of the training,” remarks Pete Ouko, the Executive Director at Crime Si Poa. 

As we look forward to the graduation of the latest cohort of our trainees from Thika Main and Women Prisons respectively, we call upon all legal practitioners of goodwill to consider committing some of their time to undertake pro-bono work.  

Did you know that you can get legal information for free at the click of a button? Kindly visit www.sheria.crimesipoa.org and be empowered to empower others. 

Resilience and Audacity:  A Story of Success After Prison 

The sewing machine is purring as another order for a customer is being put together. It is only two years since James Macharia walked out of prison after serving a 15-year sentence, and though the transition from prison life and back into the community was tough, James has put all that behind him and is gainfully putting to practice the sewing skills acquired while incarcerated.

Even though there is a presumption that sentences served are commensurate with the offence one is convicted of, and the Kenya Prisons Service prides itself as a correctional service of excellence in Africa and beyond, the reality is that Macharia, just like many other returning citizens (ex-inmates), find it difficult to get jobs or even finances to start business upon release to due to the much dreaded “certificate of good conduct”  from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).  

“After serving many years in prison, I faced a lot of challenges including stigma when I was released. The hardest part was getting a job or even money to start a business with the skills I had acquired. I knocked on various office doors with hopes of getting assisted to acquire an electronic sewing machine in vain. In most cases all I got was empty promises,” reckons Macharia.

According to Macharia, days quickly turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months to a year, without securing any financial help to start a business to sustain his livelihood. He had whoever vowed and determined to not give up or allow himself to relapse into crime as an alternative to earn a living.

“I almost lost hope, but when I remembered how far I had come from my former life in crime, I decided to push harder. Sometimes you feel like doing the unthinkable, but you realize that crime doesn’t pay. I choose to approach Crime Si Poa, an organization that was founded in prison and which is now creating change in the society. This was a game changer and a beacon of hope to me,” said Macharia adding “To date, I remain grateful for the financial help I got from the organization.”  

Crime Si Poa through its empowerment initiative program granted James Macharia, financial assistance to purchase an electronic sewing machine that quickly helped him realize his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

Born and raised in Nairobi, Macharia was able to quickly identify a niche for a proper location for his business and establish a customer base. His decision to start his business in the busy Jua Kali area of Ngara, aided him to tap into the thriving matatu industry.

“I have skills in sewing attained while in prison. When I got out of prison, I didn’t want to waste the skills. I am happy that today I have a customer base around Ngara area in Nairobi. Most of the cool seat covers in Matatus are made by me. This makes me feel satisfied,’’ Macharia said.

Through partnership with The Answer Foundation, a Dutch based Christian organization that focus on holistically empowering inmates and ex-inmates through spiritual, pyscho-social and employability skills, returning citizens like Macharia, have secured a second chance in life, and are now also offering job opportunities to other Kenyans. This not only helps reduce recidivism but also leads to reduced crime rates in society. 

Other than sewing and upholstery, the multi -skilled Macharia is also NITA certified mechanic, carpenter, and welder. “I am requesting those who have got jobs, to bring to me as I am qualified while my charges are pocket friendly,” concluded Macharia.

Crime Si Poa has always been on the front line of empowering returning citizens, to ease their reintegration into society.

James is proof of resilience, audacity, and focus. A model citizen worth supporting. You may call our office number 0741506060 if you want to place orders to, or support James.