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Petty offenders to be released in bid to decongest Kenya prisons

By Graham Kajilwa | October 4th 2016
Correction Services PS Micah Powon. According to the correctional services Principal Secretary Micah Powon, majority of these prisoners are in jail for committing petty offences. (PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/ STANDARD)

Thousands of petty offenders currently serving prison terms will be released as the Government moves to decongest jails.

There are 55,000 prisoners serving jail terms in Kenya.

According to the correctional services principal secretary Micah Powon, majority of these prisoners are in jail for committing petty offences.

However, Kenyan jails can only hold 27,000 prisoners.

Now the Government is pushing for the adoption of Community Service Orders (CSO) and Probation Orders (PO) as alternative sentences for petty offenders.

Under this system, petty offenders are either put under the supervision of a probation officer or put on community service.

According to Mr Powon, stringent laws such as the Alcohol Drinks and Control Act, Forest Act and some County By-laws have condemned thousands of poor people to prison.

These laws, he said, have set fines too high for the poor, which ultimately lands them in prison.

"It cannot be that a woman found collecting firewood in the forest receives the same sentence with someone found logging. The lady is just trying to take care of her family," said Powon

The PS said if 15,000 jailed petty offenders were sent on PO or CSO in a month, the state would save almost Sh80 million, or Sh1 billion in a year.

He was speaking during the launch of the Community Service and Probation report which which showcased how CSO and PO have helped in reforming women prisoners.

A bigger part of the decongestion plan will target female inmates jailed for petty offenses such as selling illicit brew, flouting county and forest by-laws.

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