Principal Secretary of Correctional Services, Mary Muthoni on Monday, May 15, 2023 announced that the government intends to reduce prison overcrowding by 50 percent. According to the Economic Survey 2023, the inmate population increased from 160,121 in 2021 to 169,579 in 2022.
Muthoni stated that they are currently reviewing the cases of prisoners in various categories, including petty offenders. She emphasized the collaboration between the Judiciary, other stakeholders, and her department to facilitate the plan.
She explained that a judge responsible for community service has initiated a review of cases to determine if certain inmates can be released.
“Some inmates have spent over 20 years in prison and have only three years left. We want to assess their cases and consider their release,” said Muthoni. “This approach benefits the government, the communities the inmates come from, and society as a whole.”
Muthoni also mentioned another approach they are exploring, known as the power of mercy, which involves establishing a committee to handle pardon cases. Under this process, a pardon officer gathers information to qualify inmates for presidential pardon.
The committee subsequently conducts assessments, sending probation officers to the inmates’ communities and families to evaluate the possibility of successful integration. Once the list is compiled, it is presented to the President for final approval.
“This is a meticulous process as we must ensure that the offenders do not pose a risk to society or themselves. We consider the number of years served, reports from probation and pardon officers, as well as the officer-in-charge before recommending an inmate for pardon,” she explained.
The prisons also face the challenge of an increasing number of remandees, particularly those arrested for illegal alcohol brewing.
“Rather than having numerous remandees, we should explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as resolving issues at the local chiefs’, church, or Nyumba Kumi levels, to prevent prison overcrowding,” she suggested.
Simultaneously, Muthoni expressed the goal of improving living conditions in prisons to meet international standards. “Within the next one to two years, we aim to provide every prisoner with a bed, mattress, and blanket. It is an achievable objective.”
They have already acquired 15,000 mattresses and plan to secure an additional 60,000 within a year through a public-private partnership.