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Updated May 12, 2020

 

Inmates stand in a queue as they are served tea and fried dough bread (locally known as mandazi) during a talent show at the medium security section of Kodiaga Prison in the lakeside city of Kisumu on March 31, 2019.
Inmates stand in a queue as they are served tea and fried dough bread (locally known as mandazi) during a talent show at the medium security section of Kodiaga Prison in the lakeside city of Kisumu

 

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.

 

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