The government now wants cases involving mothers with children in remand custody fast-tracked if the alleged offences fell under petty crimes category to protect the interest of the innocent children.
Principal Secretary (PS) State Department for Correctional Services Mary Muthoni Muriuki said it was sad that such innocent children found themselves locked up in prison facilities along with their mothers for prolonged period yet they were not at fault.
She expressed fears that the children found themselves mixed up with adults of all manners of characters and get exposed to all kinds of mannerisms simply because their mothers were on the wrong side of the law.
“If the offences involving the mothers with children in prison fall on petty crime cases, they should be fast-tracked to see them get out of prison so that such children can grow just like any other child out there,” the PS suggested.
The Eldoret Women Prison currently has 20 children brought with their mothers.
She said apart from the fact that the children who come to prison with their mothers were not budgeted for, they need to be taken care of in terms of food and clothing.
She said, “As a department for correctional services we are working on this area to ensure the children are taken care of in separate areas also since they are prone to behaviour change that they may get exposed to while in prison.”
She made the remarks while on a tour of Eldoret GK prison and Kimumu Probation Hostel, Eldoret where juveniles in conflict with the law and hosted as they undergo rehabilitation and transformation before being reintegrated with their families.
The PS also said the department was pushing for more utilization of the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure petty cases that can be handled at the family level, or can be resolved through village elders or Nyumba Kumi representatives are dealt with at that level.
Ms. Muthoni observed that some of the people in prison currently were petty offenders whose cases could have been handled through the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that are non-custodial, saying this would have gone a long way towards decongesting the prisons.
“We have adopted a multi-agency approach where we are going to the villages talking with the people on the importance of alternative dispute resolution, we don’t want to be a country where every now and then we are pushing offenders to prison when alternative mechanisms that are non-custodial exist,” she said.
By Kiptanui Cherono