Crisis as police cells overcrowded

An officer at Buruburu Police Station serves clients on August 24, 2020. Officers in some counties have been forced to free some suspects on free bond to reduce congestion.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Some capital offenders who are yet to be admitted to GK prison remand because the 14-days’ quarantine period has not lapsed are also held at police stations.
  • In Nyandarua and Laikipia, police say they have been holding suspects in cells for over two weeks now as designated remand centres that serve the region continue to reject them.

Police stations across the country are grappling with congestion in cells as officers are forced to hold suspects who fail to raise bond, and should be on remand.

Ordinarily, suspects who have been arraigned are supposed to be held in prison, but the protocols that require all suspects to obtain Covid-19 certificate before they are taken to remand has compelled police stations to hold them for longer.

Selling chang’aa

This complicates police operations especially where swoops to address insecurity are necessary.

Some suspects interviewed by the Nation said they cannot afford the amount required for Covid-19 test, and that they will stay in the police cells until the government offers a solution or their jail terms are over.

In Maragua Police Station, Wairegi Ceki, who was arrested while selling chang’aa in April, was arraigned in Kigumo court, where he was fined Sh10,000 or serve three months in jail.

“I failed to raise the cash. I was taken to Murang’a prison to start serving my term, but the authorities said they had no space for new inmates,” he said.

Ceki was returned to Maragua Police Station, he says.

Some capital offenders who are yet to be admitted to GK prison remand because the 14-days’ quarantine period has not lapsed are also held at police stations.

Sub-county police commanders and some ward police commanders (previously known as OCS) in Nakuru, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kisii, Nyandarua, Laikipia and Busia said they have been forced to free some suspects on free bond to reduce crowding in the cells, which are accelerating the spread of the Covid-19.

In Kisumu, Police Commander Ranson Lolmodooni said those arrested with petty offences are taken to court directly.

Nakuru East deputy police Commander Phanton Analo said the number of petty offenders has continued to grow following court operations due to Covid19.  This too is happening in Kwale.

Mr Analo said the release of suspects on free bond has had negative implications on crime management since residents no longer fear arrest.

In Nyandarua and Laikipia, police say they have been holding suspects in cells for over two weeks now as designated remand centres that serve the region continue to reject them.

That getting results for Covid-19 tests is taking  up to a week worsens the situation. Some cells are holding more than three times of their capacity as remandees with no Covid-19 certificates are rejected by remand jails.

Makeshift structures

Cells that should hold only eight inmates as per social distance rules are holding up to 20. At Ol Kalou station, for instance, a cell designed for five suspects currently has 10, while some suspects at Meru Police Station are being held in court corridors.

In West Pokot and Turkana, makeshift structures serve as cells, and in Homa Bay, petty offenders clear bushes around government offices as a strategy by police to control crowding in cells. In Lamu town, Mpeketoni, Witu, and Faza police stations, all inmates must wear masks.

By Waikwa Maina, Joseph Openda, Ian Byron,Steve Njuguna, Macharia Mwangi, Stella Cherono, John Njoroge, Kazungu Kalume, Fadhili Fredrick, Lucy Mkanyika, Titus Ominde, Barnabas Bii, Benson Amadala, Ruth Mbula, Elizabeth Ojina, George Odiwuor, Mwangi Muiruri and Charles Wanyoro

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