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5,000 Petty Offenders To Be Freed in Prisons Decongestion Plan

A scheme established by the Judiciary and the Prisons services will see an estimated 5,000 petty offenders freed from jail in the coming months in order to decongest the correctional facilities, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has said.

The planned release, the CS said, will begin next month and will coincide with the growth of probation and after-service programs aimed at reintegrating convicts.

Speaking at the commencement of a training program for newly recruited probation officers at the Kenya School of Government, the CS noted that jails are grappling with congestion as a result of an increase in petty offenders among convicts.

“We don’t have the resources to keep the number of offenders that we have. Some of them we are keeping because of Ksh600 fine for traffic offence! We are keeping some matatu violator who packed on a yellow line. Are we serious?” posed Matiang’i.

“I hope in the next phase of the decongestion campaign between May and June, we will get out about 5000 or so of petty offenders so that we can move them into the probation service program,” the CS said.

From January this year, 3,000 inmates have been freed from jails to serve in community service, revealed Justice Cecilia Githua, who chairs the Community Service Order National Committee, which oversees probation services.

Beginning next month, the prisons will release another 4,620 petty offenders from their care in order to reduce the existing jail population of 53,438 inmates.

There are 30,689 convicts and 22,799 inmates.

The government will also mobilize chiefs and Assistant County Commissioners (previously District Officials), as well as the National Government Administration structure, to engage closely with probation officers in the convicts’ integration program, CS Matiang’i said.

To supplement inmates’ integration efforts and tap into their network of after-service programs, the government will reach out to religious leaders and appropriate faith-based institutions.

Dr Matiang’i expressed worry about high recidivism rates among inmates and asked probation staff to constantly monitor criminals to ensure they do not relapse.

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“A second time and third time and fourth term offenders are evidence that our after-care work is not very successful. The character of success in this work will be demonstrated by a reduction of repeat offenders amongst us and how active the after-care members become in their societies and how well they become integrated,” he said.

A program jointly supported by the government, the European Union, and the United Nations Office in Nairobi will hire and train 1,000 probation officers. 600 cops have already been hired, with half of them having already completed their training. They will join the existing 860 officers in the force.

Petty criminals and those serving terms of three years or less can be sentenced to community service under the Community Service Orders Act.

This could entail, among other things, providing labor for road building and maintenance, environmental protection operations, and maintenance work in public schools and hospitals.

The offer of community service does not apply to those serving time for capital offenses, sexual, economic, or drug-related offenses.

Currently, 6,073 petty offenders are in detention while 955 others have less than three years remaining to serve.

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