In 2003, a BBC journalist who visited Industrial Area Remand Prison in Nairobi described what he saw:
“Here, more than 3,000 inmates – 3,800 on today’s count – share a prison designed for only 800 prisoners. The daily budget: $0.30 per prisoner.”
More recent anecdotal evidence suggests that Industrial Area Remand Prison is currently housing in the region of 5,000 prisoners. Such conditions are typical of prison life across Kenya.
Lack of resources and chronic overcrowding mean that real attempts at rehabilitation are too often an unaffordable luxury for the Kenyan Prison Service. To make the situation worse still, practically no support is provided to prisoners once they are released. Inmates - some of whom will have spent more than two decades in prison - find themselves left to fend for themselves on the busy streets of Nairobi or some other town or city with no accommodation, no money and no support from the government or their families.
Many released prisoners face rejection from their spouses and families on release and are not accepted back into their home communities. This rejection means that many have little chance of changing their lifestyles and instead return to crime as a means of survival – often returning to the prisons they have recently left.
All this occurs within a prison system in which wrongful convictions or lengthy periods of remand before charge are unacceptably commonplace, adding to the very real injustice experienced by many Kenyan prisoners.