Kenya prisons in deplorable conditions

Kamiti Prison

Inmates and correctional officers at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in this picture taken on September 30, 2019. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Prisons in Kenya have for long been plagued by overcrowding, poor diet, lack of clean water, poor sanitation, diseases and other challenges.

Overcrowding, for one, is mostly due to the large number of remandees, many of whom are unable to raise bail and others waiting for their cases to be heard in court. The time taken to process appeals is also lengthy, further contributing to overcrowding.

According to the World Prison Brief, there are 129 prison facilities in Kenya, which held 42,596 inmates as of September 2020. The recommended holding capacity was 26,837 as of September 2018.

Equally high is the number of people arrested and detained in police cells. A recent study revealed that an average of 9,000 people were held in different police stations yearly.

The diet in Kenyan prisons is deplorable. In fact, people often refer to badly cut vegetables or poorly cooked meals as "prison food". The portions are also small and of poor nutritional value.

Torture and ill-treatment

Torture and ill-treatment have commonly been used in these prisons. Although the Prison Act CAP 90 part IX section 59 allows for the punishment of prisoners, the police are taking it too far.

Deaths in prisons is not news. Many die as a result of all these unfavourable conditions.

In recent years, more than 2, 714 people have died in prison, with the largest number having been 623 in 2013, according to reports by Amnesty International.

The government should ensure that domestic law and practice conform to International Human Rights treaties ratified by Kenya, such as the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on accelerating Prison and Penal Reforms in Africa.

The government should also ensure prison conditions meet International Human Rights standards.

Mr Musyoki is a communication and media technology student at Maseno University.