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Prisons staff houses ‘not fit’ for habitation

By Roselyne Obala | March 17th 2019
Some of the staff houses at Kakamega GK Prisons that are being faced off with modern housing units by the National Government. (Duncan Ocholla, Standard)

The government has been put in a tight spot over the disgraceful state of prison staff living conditions in spite of the ongoing prison reforms.

The prison officers put up in mud, iron sheet or timber housesall creaking under the weight of age. In some cases, some officers are forced to live in pre-independence hall-like structures, a report from the Auditor General’s office reveals.

The report indicates that some officers’ houses date back to the colonial era, when African prison staff were housed in huts constructed similar to those they lived in the villages.

“Majority of prison staff houses are dilapidated and not fit for human habitation due to lack of maintenance. Officers live in houses with broken windows and doors, cracked walls and leaked roofs,” says the report.

Sadly, the audit says 30-unit houses whose construction began under the Moody Awuori prisons reforms programme lie abandoned, unoccupied and stalled at the Eldoret GK Prison while officers live in crumbling mud houses.

Also, it is now emerging that the government continues to favour the police in the new housing programme as prisonofficers are left on their own.

“The current Police Prisons Housing Programme (PPHP) under the Housing ministry appears to favour the Kenya Police Service over the Kenya Prisons Service in allocation of housing units,” says Auditor General Edward Ouko in the report.

Squeeze into shanties

For instance, of the 1,850 new units commissioned in June 2017, only 350 were assigned to the prisons service.

About 85 per cent of the 450 officers who participated in the audit are forced to stay without their families, while those who live with their spouses are made to squeeze into one-bedroom shanties that lack basic amenities such as toilets and running water.

Cases of families sharing houses were predominant in Coast and Rift Valley regions where officers were accommodated in single rooms.

“The housing problem facing KPS can be broadly categorised into non-availability of enough housing units compared to staffpopulation and poor condition of houses used by officers,” says the report.

The situation is so dire that the officers’ morale has significantly dropped, and their social and professional lives interrupted, according to the report.

“There are instances of officers accommodated in single rooms with their families while other officers shared rooms. This compromised their privacy,” reads the report.

It says all prison stations in the country have a housing deficit of more than 50 per cent, with Kakamega and Kilifi prisonsrecording the highest deficits at 95 percent and 92 per cent, respectively.

In some cases, officers are forced to maintain their collapsing houses out of their pockets, says the report.

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