Offenders to be freed in move to fight coronavirus

Kakamega Women Prison officer Doreen Anabaka and her staff with inmates at the prison. [File, Standard]

Prosecutors have been ordered to facilitate the release of petty offenders in a bid to decongest prisons in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji instructed prosecutors to work closely with magistrates even as the Judiciary said deserving cases have been identified and the appropriate directions will be issued.

The Judiciary is also banking on technology to help expedite the initiative, with court sessions in Malindi heard via video link and more than 30 offenders set free.

Prison authorities yesterday said they had put in place adequate contingent measures to protect the prison population, which numbers approximately 54,000 inmates and pre-trial remandees.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the State Department of Correctional Services Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein have been co-chairing daily meetings with a view to review risk mitigation strategies intended to prevent an outbreak.

"We have suspended all visits to prison lines, borstal institutions, and youth corrective training centres across the country for the next 30 days. Therefore, no visitors will be allowed at our 107 correctional facilities as a precautionary measure to minimise face-to-face contact and interaction with the civilian population. This injunction has also been extended to the prison staff,” said Ms Hussein.

Soap supply

The PS said that to ensure uninterrupted supply of soaps, detergents and sanitisers, the Athi River GK Prison has scaled up production of the items to meet rising demand in prisons.

She also revealed that inmates will remain accommodated in their respective blocks, wards and cells as per the current registers without any unnecessary movement.

"So far, we have also dispatched a team of health specialists to all the regions to join the county disease surveillance teams in the management of our infirmaries, which now have isolation units. In the meantime, our health facilities will be closed to the public and will solely serve the prison population.”

The PS said the prisons were self-sufficient in food production with farm supplies having increased nearly four times since 2018. "As such, we don’t foresee any shortages and we have instituted strict protocols, including but not limited to thorough disinfection of vehicles and high hygiene standards that must be adhered to by all suppliers."

Covid 19 Time Series