80% of Kenya’s prison guards have no homes, even as the Prisons Department failed to use millions of shillings it was given to build better housing and sanitation facilities, reveals a government report.
The report on Kenya’s prisons further recommends the dismissal and prosecution of top prisons officers for corruption, dereliction of duty and sexual harassment. Prisons officers routinely pay bribes in order to get promoted, while female officers cited demands for sex in exchange for promotions.
Lack of adequate housing for prison officers has caused a proliferation of shanties and slums within prison compounds. Current houses were intended for just 3,660 staff as compared to present staffing levels of over 17,000. Prison warders, forced to share a single room, use polythene sheets and cardboard to partition their houses. The lack of privacy has resulted in prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism, family quarrels, social breakdown, theft and cross-interference in each others’ domestic affairs, says the report. In several correctional facilities, the committee found prison warders using bucket latrines.
Apart from the pathetic state of prison warders, the committee discovered massive irregularities in prison operations. Prison warders outside the capital complained of an absence of supervision by commanders. In the town of Machakos, private flats have been built within prison land, meaning that tenants are inadvertently getting state security. In other parts of the country, livestock belonging to senior officers mingle with those of the prisons, hence benefiting from government veterinary services.
The report was compiled by a probe committee appointed to look into Kenya’s jails following a prison warders mutiny several months ago. The committee, headed by former legislator Marsden Madoka, completed its work this week. The Madoka report has called for the prosecution of masterminds behind the warders’ strike, describing it as a threat to national security.
Prison warders went on strike in April protesting over poor pay and a hostile work environment. Many of the warders say they receive little supplies from their employer, forcing them to buy uniforms from the army and the police services. Warders have criticized the Kenyan government for neglecting them while placing too much emphasis on improving the welfare of prisoners. Since 2003, prisoners in Kenya have been supplied with new uniforms and gotten better accommodation in addition to comfortable buses. There are also opportunities for inmates who dropped out of school to get high school and other vocational certificates while in jail.
Kenya’s private sector has also faced criticism for making donations to inmates and organizing beauty pageants while doing little for prison warders.
Just last week, a mobile phone racket involving death-row inmates was uncovered in the country’s major prisons. Inmates used smuggled mobile phones to run an extortion and fraud racket targeting East, Central and Southern Africa. It is believed that demoralized warders turned a blind eye as inmates made millions of shillings from the scam.