The Manyani Maximum Prison was a scene of emotional reunions Saturday, after hundreds of family members were allowed to freely interact with their incarcerated kin as the facility opened its door to their relatives for inaugural family day.
The introduction of family days for prisoners is part of department of prison’s initiative to strengthen the family ties and prepare the inmates for eventual reintegration back into the society.
At Manyani, over 300 visitors were allowed access into the heavily-guarded prison after extensive security clearance.
Once inside the fortified walls, mothers hugged their jailed sons in delirious joy as children freely wept in their father’s arms.
Later on, the families picked their tables for talks as dozens prison wardens kept a watchful eye over the meetings.
Titus Nzivo, a convict from Makueni county serving life imprisonment for robbery with violence, said he was delighted to meet his sister whom he hadn’t seen in over seven years.
Nzivo stated that the closest he had come to meeting his family was through a small-window in a visitors’ room, where no prisoner was allowed to get into contact with anyone from outside.
“This is the first time this kind of interaction is happening and I am very happy. I can now see my people face to face,” he said.
Another prisoner from Kwale County, jailed for life, Hamisi Mwatambo said the introduction of family days was a very welcome step to make them updated with the world they had left behind.
Mwatambo noted that most of them had families back at home and the visits helped in reconnecting them with their children and kin.
“Our families have come and they are now at peace. We are happy that we have met face to face, laughed and cried together,” he said.
The Officer-in-charge of Manyani Prison, Bison Madegwa said the management had decided to initiate the family days as part of a rehabilitation program to prepare the inmates for eventual life outside.
He stated that reintegration was vital for the prisoners and such visits would also reduce the stigma usually associated with convicts who had reformed and released back to the society.
Madegwa noted that with the several pending cases of re-sentencing, there was a likelihood that a number of life jail terms might be commuted to sentences with definite timelines and because of such possibilities, the family days will prepare the prisoners on how to interact with their family members, while also preparing them to receive their kin.
“It’s an exercise that is meant to enhance family ties between our clients and their families. This reintegration will be a success once the start bonding well,” he explained.
Meanwhile, convict families requested for the event to be held at least twice every year to allow them spend more time with their jailed kin.
Ms. Rachael Kilao, a mother to one of the convicts serving life, said she was excited to have seen him after over seven years of separation. She said she was praying for him to have his sentence reduced and return back to his family.
“I am hopeful the courts will reduce his sentence and bring him back to us. We are ready to receive him,” she said.
Reverend David Zowe, the chairperson for the county peace committee, hailed the kind gesture by the facility terming is as ‘humane’. He said the biggest challenge remained acceptance of people who had served a term in prison back to the society, no matter how short the duration.
He pointed out that most people regarded ex-convicts as criminals and were usually ostracized even after they were reformed and released from prisons.
Zowe said absence of constant meetings between jailed persons and their families contributed largely to the perception that convicts were permanently evil people.
“The family visits demystify pertinent issues surrounding convicts, allowing them to be accepted back to the societies they left behind. The visits prepare families psychologically and takes away the stigma,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi