The Kenya prisons services in collaboration with Justice Defenders, a non-governmental organization, have opened nine legal offices in nine selected prisons across the country to bridge the access to justice gap for inmates.
The legal offices will be present in nine correctional facilities including Naivasha Women’s and Medium prisons, Lang’ata Women’s prison, Machakos Women’s and Men’s prison, Thika Main prison and Women’s facilities, Kiambu prison and as well as Nairobi Medium prison.
Speaking during the key event held in Naivasha women facility, Duncan Ogore, the Assistant Commissioner of Prisons said that the legal offices will equip the inmates with paralegal skills, which will help them maneuver the justice system procedures with ease when defending their cases in courts.
Ogore said that most of the inmates lack access to legal aid and services which have led to most of them being jailed for minor offenses, which they can easily defend and secure release when they have the right knowledge and skills.
The commissioner of prisons said the partnership will enhance the capacity of inmates and prison staff so as to achieve equal access to justice, adding that more successful appeals by inmates will help decongest the prisons in the long run.
Justice Defenders Country Director, Miriam Wachira said that the listed prisons will provide legal awareness sessions to inmates through the trained paralegals, offer free lessons on crafting cross-examinations questions, drafting petitions, requests for re-sentencing and appeals among other services.
Consequently, Wachira said the organization has so far trained 319 paralegals across the prisons who have since enabled more than 18,797 inmates to have access to legal services resulting in more than 4,346 inmates securing freedom in the last one year.
“We want to bridge the existing justice gap where more than 80 per cent of the inmates lack access to legal services to enable them have a fair trial,” said Wachira
At the same time, she said that more than 43,789 inmates have been served through virtual court sessions being facilitated through the installation of internet and computers, while over 451 inmates have had their matters settled out of courts through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
The director added that through collaboration with the University of London in England, 31 inmates have so far graduated with a Law Degree with 11 inmates currently in college to enhance their legal capacities.
By Erastus Gichohi and Calvin Osiemo