The number of convicts who die behind Kenyan prison walls has never been questioned by civil society,humanitarian groups,government agencies,general public and non governmental institutions simply because prisoners are unwanted third class unwanted animal like creatures who deserve death or something close to it. In the secluded environment they are left to die and disappear off the face of earth, no one will come looking since no one cares, no questions will be raised , no answers will be required, public sympathy towards them is zero or negative.
The government is failing miserably on its mandate to protect the lives of Kenyans in its custody. Official figures for deaths behind prison cells is one particular record that remains highly classified, courtesy of our country’s security organs, prison disappearances are not new in this part of the world.
Albeit this, in 1997, a government minister; whose name is concealed on basis of anonymity stated that more than 800 convicts died in the first nine months of the year.
In 1997, at least 630 prisoners succumbed to their deaths behind bars. Majority of the guys’ demises were attributed to infectious maladies.
Information on matters Kenyan prisons is so scarce. This is largely because access to the penal institutions is denied or severely restricted. This makes it a pronounced problem getting to follow up on prisoners’ welfare when one is not family even with the extreme makeover the prison department has undergone so far.
Societal concern has been raised on numerous occasions in the recent past, with human rights non – governmental organisations, prisoners, doctors and members of the Judiciary all vouching against discrimination, torture and infringement of ” the convicts” rights. The aforementioned personalities have also long wished prison conditions were improved for the sole purposes of upholding their rights; in this scenario prisoners’.
So what really causes these baffling deaths? What makes this demises so gross? Do convicts suffer natural deaths or are their surprising fall downs induced? Let us zero in on the why’s.
Torture and I’ll treatment of convicts could possibly be ranked as the major reason for prisoners’ deaths behind bars. Wardens inflict torture on the guys during attempted escapades for purposes of siphoning information from the lads, during major cell burst ups and searches, mentioning just but a few.
Another COD (cause of death) behind bars are the poor conditions of the Kenyan penal institutions. Hundreds of inmates die each year out of poor cell conditions. Majority suffering from infections which arise from insanitary conditions, shortage of food, clean water, clothing, blankets and adequate medical care.
In September 2000, the then Nyeri District Commissioner , Mr. Ali Korane stated: ” Our prisoners are in very poor conditions. In all provinces I have served as an administrator, all the facilities are pathetic. These harsh conditions end up hardening criminals rather than rehabilitating them.”
Overcrowding comes in handy as another factor. Kenyan penal institutions hold as much as thrice the capacity of inmates they were designed for. There are 78 jails in Kenya which were built to accommodate 15,000 inmates. The prisons now house 35,000 while other reports suggest the actual number is nearer 50,000 inmates.
Another possible reason resorting to deaths of the inmates is the almost impossible access to prisons and prisoners. A lot of gruesome bureaucracy does exist in all prisons across Kenya. Seeing leave alone talking to your loved ones behind prison walls could be quite a hustle. Family, doctors and lawyers of the detained are all but allowed limited access to their relatives, patients and clients respectively. A lot more inmates suffer from genetic disorders including diabetes, asthma , hypertension, cardiovascular maladies, obesity and sundries. Even getting a doctor’s check up for them is a miracle as most prisoners lack doctors or medics.
Someone has to do something. The crime gurus might have disobeyed the land’s laws, but they too are human. They too have rights. They too deserve life just as any other man deserves. They too deserve a second chance.