CCTV, biometric system to enhance security, prevent future lapses at Kamiti

Three terror convicts flown back to Kamiti maximum prison on November 18, 2021after being arrested in Kitui. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The escape of three terror convicts from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison has triggered a wave of changes in the country’s correctional services.

Besides the appointment of the boss of a new prison, the government hopes that the introduction of new modern CCTV cameras and biometrics will help deal with some of the challenges at the Kamiti and other prisons.

On Thursday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Information Communication Technology (ICT) counterpart Joe Mucheru toured Kamiti prison to audit the facility’s security system.

“This has been a wake up call for the government, which has started reassessing security within the prisons,” said Matiang’i.

The changes were a culmination of a flurry of meetings, led my Matiang’i. On Monday evening, he chaired an emergency meeting with a team of senior government officials at Kamiti prison where he cast doubts on the narrative that the prisoners had escaped after drilling a hole out of Block 6A before scaling two high walls to their freedom.

Sources close to Harambee House say the delay in notifying his immediate boss of the high-value escapees effectively cooked the goose for sacked Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogallo.

Police boss summoned

Matiang’i is said to have summoned Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti and senior National Intelligence Service (NIS) officials to a contingency  meeting over the escape.

It is not clear at what point President Uhuru Kenyatta was officially alerted of the prison break. The Matiang’i-led meeting, however, resolved that the core security managers and a few other members of the Nairobi region security team be summoned to Kamiti.

At the prison, Matiang’i chaired a meeting attended by Mutyambai, Kinoti, other top security officials, and Principal Secretaries Karanja Kibicho (Interior) and Zeinab Hussein (Correctional Services). Also in attendance was Nairobi Regional Commissioner James Kianda and then Kamiti Prisons Officer in Charge Charles Mutembei.

News of the capture of the terrorists broke as the CS was chairing another meeting at Harambee House. He was scheduled to go to Kamiti later to formally introduce Brigadier (Rtd) John Warioba, who took over from Ogallo, and the acting Kamiti officer in charge.

Before then, Matiang’i had met the IG and DCI boss separately where, on advice of the NIS, a decision was made to fly the trio back to Kamiti.

Security challenges

In his address to the media, Matiang’i said the government would use technology to deal with some of the security challenges in prisons.

The security changes are expected to help the new management in monitoring the prisons.

It is through the CCTV cameras that prison authorities hope to eradicate the smuggling of drugs into the institutions.

Through surveillance, prison authorities hope they will also eradicate the entry of contraband mobile phones and sim-cards, which have been used by some of the inmates to organise crimes from the comfort of their cells.

With every cell being put under watch, the prisons headquarters hopes to effectively deal with this vice.

Matiang’i said the ICT ministry will install CCTV cameras to cover the entire prisons, including the cells. The CCTV will be controlled and monitored from the prison, with a backup at Magereza House.

Besides the installation of modern CCTV cameras, the ICT ministry will also install a new biometric system at the prisons to help in management of staff.

This will help in monitoring movement in and out of the prisons, and will enable the government to keep track of anyone accessing the correctional facilities.