As of September 2020, 42,596 suspects were in jail, but according to government records, the official capacity of the country’s prison system was 26,837.
Congestion in Kenya’s 129 prisons (190%) has created the perfect recipe for disaster in some of the most dangerous prisons.
Life in prison is known to shatter hope, dreams and dignity. “It drains your mind and humanity,” explained a former inmate.
In prison, inmates would be treated like beasts, and if they ever did come out, they would wear the curse of prison forever on their foreheads. Most look to religion for solace and a way to heal wounds (mental and physical) suffered behind bars.
The Kenya Prisons Project helps inmates acquire technical skills to help them better merge with society and break the cycle of crime once they are released.
Although Kenya’s prisons continue to be heavily criticized by international groups for neglect, violence and human rights abuses, there has been no grassroots movement for prison reform that deserves to be mentioned, with the exception of Moody Awori’s prison reform program in 2003.
Here are some of the most feared Kenyan prisons in Kenya, where you are just as likely to die at the hands of guards as you are at inmates.
Kamiti Maximum Security Prison
It is perhaps not surprising that there are very few, if any, successful escapes from Kenya’s safest and most notorious prison.
Originally named “Kamiti Downs”, it sits in the middle of its own 490 hectare (1,200 acre) estate.
Talk to TBEN.co.ke, a correspondent confirmed that it was the most dangerous prison in the country, despite countless initiatives to rehabilitate inmates.
He further revealed that the actual number of murders and crimes taking place inside these walls is a closely guarded secret.
Kamiti Maximum Prison
Some of Kenya’s most hardened criminals are housed behind its high concrete walls, with reformed thief John Kiriamiti describing him as “hell on earth”.
One bad look or one misstep is likely to result in a major altercation and sometimes death behind bars.
Shimo la Tewa
It is a maximum security prison that has long been called a death camp.
Heavy fights and daring jailbreaks are some of the things that come to mind when it comes to Shimo la Tewa.
With over 2,600 detainees, including prime terrorism suspects and many convicted foreign sea pirates who are being held in the infamous F Block, it’s no wonder that most of those who venture there don’t never come out the same way.
On March 18, 2014, Jermaine Grant, a British national and suspected terrorist, suffered a fractured skull just above his right eye in an alleged bitter fight between hardcore inmates and prison guards, who were allegedly in the process of to suppress an attempted escape from the infamous Block F prison on March 18 last year.
Entrance area of Shimo la Tewa prison in Kilifi.
Naivasha Maximum Security Prison
As one of the country’s maximum security prisons, Naivasha GK Lice Prison has seen more than its fair share of successful escapes.
His most notorious record to date was the escape of 28 prisoners on April 21, 2004. More than two dozen prisoners simply disappeared from the prison.
On January 29, agents from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (DCI) arrested two prison officers in connection with the murder of Simon Ndur – a former detainee at Naivasha prison.
Sergeant Dennis Wandati Masibo and Constable Obadiah Meriti Lansika, alias Masai, both of whom work in Naivasha Maximum prison, will be charged with the murder of the convict contrary to section 203 as read with section 204 of the Penal Code.
According to an autopsy report, the prisoner had several bruises on his body, with blunt trauma being the cause of death.
A labyrinth of chain link fences, barbed wire, and guard towers in the city’s bustling industrial area, this detention center is known for its sodomy.
In a rare TBEN interview a few years ago, an inmate explained how confined spaces and overcapacity made it almost impossible to escape predators.
Their cages are filled with the foul smell of sweat, dirt and human waste.
In the wing of the capital, housing more than 400 prisoners sentenced to death, dozens of detainees are kept in tiny cells that can accommodate between one and five prisoners.
“I didn’t put my clothes on because we were sweating all night. Four years later, my case is still pending in court and I’m still here, ”the inmate explained.
“Because of the congestion, people sleep here body to body and this body contact leads to these kinds of tendencies,” he added.
Kodiaga Kisumu Prison
Considered one of the worst detention centers in the country, the conditions in the cold metal bars are almost indescribable.
The prison houses more than 2,650 inmates, more than double its capacity. The buildings are old and dilapidated with rusty metal grilles.
Worryingly, the prison is famous for its high rates of suicide and murder. At one point, 10 deaths were recorded in the space of two months.
Everyone in prison lives in a state of emotional and psychological fear that forces each inmate to threaten another, because if he doesn’t, he won’t escape the threat of others.
“It’s too much when you have ten deaths in a prison in the space of two months. There must be something wrong with Kodiaga,” Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch once said.
Kodiaga prison in Kisumu
On February 19, 2020, a man (Joseph Wanyoike Kinyanjui), who had just been convicted of murder, died in Murang’a GK prison. The autopsy report showed he had been strangled.
After his death, a prison guard reported to Murang’a Police Station that an inmate had died at the prison clinic where he was being treated for “alcohol withdrawal syndrome”.
According to OB number 24/9/2/2020, Kinyanjui, 35, suffered no physical injuries except for traces of blood around the nasal area.
It is the story of countless other people whose conviction of what are essentially supposed to be correctional facilities only damages them even more.
Official figures for prison deaths are scarce, but in October 1995 a government minister said more than 800 prisoners had died in the first nine months of the year.
In 1997, at least 630 prisoners are said to have died, most of them from infectious diseases. Information on conditions in Kenyan prisons is limited as access to prisons is denied or severely restricted.
Notably, around 50% of Kenyan prisoners are defendants or people in pretrial detention awaiting trial – people legally considered innocent.
Recruits to the 44th Parade Pass-0ut Prisons at the Prison Staff Training College, Ruiru, August 13, 2020.