In late 2018, the Kenyan government established the Kenya Prison Enterprise Corporation with the aim of eventually turning the prison system into a “financially self-sustaining entity," an attempt by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ruling Jubilee Party to rectify the nation’s precarious financial situation.
The problem, writes Christine Mungai for Africa Is a Country, is that not only is privatization not a guarantee of greater revenue, but it also fundamentally infringes on the rights of Kenyans and undermines the rehabilitative purpose behind imprisonment. A 2016 report by the California-based In the Public Interest research and policy center found that American inmates incarcerated in private prisons experienced higher rates of habitual relapse into crime than their public-prison counterparts.
There were more awaiting-trial detainees than convicted prisoners in Kenya.
A few years prior to that report, the government of South Africa had to take over a maximum-security prison managed by private company G4S due to “a worrying deterioration of safety and security at the center”.
Anti-vagrancy and loitering laws from Kenya’s colonial past regularly trap impoverished young men in the criminal justice system, clogging courts with minor-offense caseloads, overcrowding prisons, and elevating the risk of police brutality and abuses of detainees. Investigative reporting by The Daily Nation found that there were more detainees awaiting-trial than convicted prisoners in Kenya, 90 percent of these detainees could not afford bail.