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Calls for a women’s prison in Kirinyaga to decongest in Embu prison

Female  remandees  and  convicts churned out by courts in Kirinyaga County to the Embu G.K. Prison have added to the congestion at the facility, it has emerged.

According to a report submitted to the Kirinyaga County Court Users Committee, over 90 per cent of the female inmates’ population at the facility hail from Kirinyaga.

The  committee Chair and Kerugoya Resident Judge, Lady Justice Lucy Gitari said police officers were straining to transport female remandees to and from Embu.

“The police have to pick the female remandees from Embu then distribute them to Baricho, Wang’uru, Kianyaga and Kerugoya law Courts and again repeat the same process in the evening at the expense of other pressing security duties,” Justice Gitari said.

Gitari said the inconvenience has resulted in delays of cases forcing the court to write production orders for the remandees to be presented in court.

She said due to the tedious and lengthy transport process, these remandees end up missing their evening meals while waiting to be ferried back to Embu.

Gitari proposed that the County government consider and avail land for the construction of a women’s prison in Mwea.

“Some leaders fear that the people they represent may blame such leaders for advocating for the construction of such a facility but this is a reality and our people have to be taken to Embu using funds meant for security purposes,’’ she said.

Gitari also said family members of such remandees and convicts are ever inconvenienced due to the distance and can hardly visit them as regularly as they may wish.

“Whether we put up this facility in this county or not our women are still going to prison and hence the need for the entire leadership to come together and support this proposal for the immediate construction of a female detention facility in the area,” she said.

Justice  Gitari also cited the lack of a Juvenile facility in the county and added that offenders under this category are taken to the neighboring Murang’a County which has the facility.

She  proposed that some rooms in Wamumu Rehabilitation School can be renovated to hold children remandees to avoid mixing them with adults in the police stations.

“There is an urgent need to come up with a child protection unit in one of the police stations where children can be remanded to enforce the right of the child while in a police station,” Justice Gitari said.

The  committee also expressed concerns over charging of Sh.2000 for filling of the P3 forms by the clinical officers in many of the health facilities in Kirinyaga.

“P3  forms ought to be issued free of charge and anyone being asked to pay for the same should report to the police. It is criminal to charge for facilities the government is providing for free,” she said.

Justice Gitari  said the matter should be addressed with immediate effect to save the public from further exploitation.

She said the county government should be in a position to ensure the health officers are facilitated when required to give testimony in courts.

“There has also been a concern touching on the same category of people who have been accused of charging high fees for carrying out postmortems, which should not be the case,” she said.

“There are cases of murder where bodies are buried without postmortem, letting the culprit go scot free when relatives are unable to pay the fee,” the Judge said

The committee was further informed of the congestion of prisoners at the Kerugoya prison with a total 595 inmates against the holding capacity of 300.

Justice  Gitari  said the number can be reduced through non-custodial sentences like the community service orders where the inmates could be engaged to work in projects beneficial to the community.

She  called for expansion of prison facilities in tandem with the increasing population.

The  Court Users Committees (CUCs) is a forum that brings together actors in the administration of justice as well as clients in the justice system to address problems within the sector and to coordinate responses to these problems by the Judiciary.

The CUCs have been lauded as the best vehicle for improving public participation in judicial processes, because they provide the opportunity to make the justice system more participatory and inclusive since the public is represented through institutional representations of all arms of government, civil society organizations and private sector groups.

By  Irungu  Mwangi