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Justice defenders on mission to Keep Inmates off prison cells

The Justice Defenders organisation, in partnership with the Judiciary and the Correctional Facilities, has rolled out paralegal training for inmates aimed at helping them manoeuvre court trials knowledgeably during their cases.

According to Dixon Mwakazi, the Director of Legal, Human Rights, Research, and Statistics at Correctional Services, equipping inmates with legal skills and knowledge is key to decongesting the prisons.

Mwakazi said out of a population of up to 60,000 inmates in the country, over 15,000 are petty offenders who have been remanded for lack of legal representation and knowledge of the trial processes.

Mwakazi said through the paralegal training, inmates are imparted with the skills and knowledge on how to prosecute their cases, draft their appeals, and negotiate for lesser bail terms to secure release.

“Our prisons currently hold over 60,000 inmates but should hold up to 25,000 for optimal operation and service delivery, and this programme will help to decongest our facilities,” said Mwakazi.

The Director further said some of the inmates have benefited from further studies and have acquired law degrees’ courtesy of the University of London to champion the rights of prisoners.

Consequently, he said the prison continues to defend the rights of prisoners, including intersex persons, to live harmoniously within the vicinity of correctional facilities across the country.

According to Justice Defenders Country Director Miriam Wachira, the organisation has reached out to over 20,000 inmates in 18 prisons in the country and secured the release of 6,000 prisoners.

Ms. Wachira said so far the organisation has successfully trained 189 paralegals within prisons and, in partnership with Strathmore University, has rolled out an online paralegal course to benefit more inmates.

Ms. Wachira further divulged that 90 per cent of inmates in local prisons lack access to an advocate to help them prosecute their cases in court due to a lack of finances.

She added that the organisation plans to upscale the programme to benefit more inmates in all correctional facilities across the country and help them secure their release.

“This training aims to bring legal skills and knowledge to the affected and most deserving inmates to help them understand legal jargon and manoeuvre the court trial process successfully,” said Ms. Wachira.

According to Cyrus Musembi, an inmate serving a life sentence and a beneficiary of the programme, the training has helped him and tens of other inmates defend themselves during their trials.

Musembi, who was sentenced for a robbery with violence offence in 2012, has since graduated with a diploma in Common Law and a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of London.

“Through this training, I and my fellow inmates understand our constitutional rights, draft appeals, present our cases in court, and manoeuvre the court trial processes more knowledgeably,” said Musembi.

The father of two sent a caution to the youths who may be tempted to involve themselves in crime, noting that the vice would eventually usher them into prison for a year and thus ruin their lives.

By Erastus Gichohi

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