Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki has called for the relocation of Chuka Prison in Kathwana to Kabariangi Municipality.
He said the prison is occupying prime land that the county government has earmarked for construction of a Level Five hospital.
Having a prison within a town, the governor insisted, adds no value and the land can be put to more productive uses.
“A prison sitting in the middle of any city adds no value. We don’t see the need of prisons being in such places when the government is looking for prime land for investment,” he added.
Mr Njuki said a dispute was brewing between county governments and the national government regarding the relocation of prisons. He said that, although there is goodwill between the Prisons Department and relevant county departments, the national government has refused to provide funds for the construction of new prisons. Mr Njuki said county governments are ready to donate land but the national government is playing hard ball.
“It is not possible for counties to give land and also proceed to build the prisons,” said Mr Njuki.
“That’s something that should be done collaboratively by the two levels of government as they are all working for the people,” he added. He said affected counties are Kitale, Homa Bay, Meru, Kisumu, Kitui and Tharaka-Nithi.
Last week, President William Ruto ordered the relocation of Kitale Prison to create room for the expansion of the densely populated town. This was in response to a request by Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya, who had questioned the logic behind having several correctional facilities in one town.
The town has four prisons, which sit on 160 acres — Kitale Main, Kitale Medium, Kitale Annex and Kitale Women.
“I agree that the prison should be relocated. I also agree that Kitale needs new roads, water and issuance of title deeds and land for expansion,” said Dr Ruto.
In 2021, the government had said plans were underway to move prisons in Nairobi to create space for development projects.
Then Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had revealed that the government had directed officials to relocate “about seven” prisons as most were congested and dilapidated.