The State Department of Correctional Services and the Judiciary have embarked on de-congesting jails in a process targeting petty offenders and mothers.
Principal Secretary at the Department Mary Muthoni on Monday made an impromptu visit to the Nakuru Prison where she said the move was aimed at alleviating the suffering of the children.
“The issue of young innocent children in our prisons is very touching. We are working with the Judiciary towards reviewing their mothers' cases,” said Muthoni.
She explained that keeping the children in prison affects their development.
“As of January 30, we had ten children at the Nakuru Women's Prison. In facilities across the country, there are about 300 children below the age of four. This is a high number,” she said.
She explained that the department was working closely with the Judiciary to ensure that mothers imprisoned for less serious offences and have their children with them are released.
“Some mothers didn’t commit capital offences that may keep them in prison for a long time. If they are petty offences, we let them go and commit them to community work,” she added.
She added that the Judiciary had made its commitment towards ensuring the overall number of people jailed and committed to remand is reduced.
“Petty offenders should be corrected in a different way other than imprisoning them. Those in remand should not be held for long only to be found innocent years later,” she said.
Muthoni noted that holding offenders in the facilities should not be about punishing but correcting them.
She said that this was in line with the government’s agenda of ensuring all persons in the productive age bracket are gainfully engaged to aid in nation-building.
“If an offender is contained in a prison, the focus should be giving them skills that will help them pick up on their lives when they are released,” Muthoni said.
The PS added that the government was working on strengthening alternative forms of justice to ensure petty offences are dealt with at the lowest level possible.
“Some of these petty cases can be resolved outside court instead of holding productive persons behind bars. Everyone deserves a second chance. We want to correct people at the lowest level, starting with village elders and chiefs,” said Muthoni.
She cited family issues that can be resolved outside the court to address unnecessary congestion in jail.
The PS said the government was also working towards improving the welfare of prisoners and prison warders in line with UN standards.