By Legal Resources Foundation Trust
Nine inmates at the Kamiti Maximum Prison have died of cholera since Saturday, 21st November 2009, when the first case of cholera outbreak was reported at the Prison.
16 inmates were admitted to the Kenyatta National hospital in critical condition while 52 inmates were admitted to the Prison sickbay. The conditions at the sickbay are appalling – with dilapidated walls and floor, poor ventilation, no running water, poor sleeping conditions, no proper handles for medical drips among other issues. Of the 52 inmates, 45 are convicted prisoners while 7 are on remand.
This is not the first time there has been an outbreak of cholera in the Prisons in 2009.
In March 2009, there was an outbreak of cholera at the Nakuru G.K Prison during which 2 inmates lost their lives while 299 others were treated and discharged. With the congestion and poor sanitation experienced in Prisons countrywide it is only a matter of time before other Prisons are hit by outbreaks of cholera.
Prisoners and Prison officers in various stations are constantly exposed to serious health hazards. Prisoners continue to unblock sewerage without protective gear, work in the number plate section in Kamiti without any protective gear, cook for their fellow in-mates without medical certification (in various prisons); all this time, prison officers must interact with convicts, whether they have contagious illnesses or not, without any proper protection.
The prison officers do not have any proper medical cover or insurance. Further, the officers continue to conduct physical searches in the most inhumane ways.
The Madoka report recommendations, one and half years later, are yet to be implemented. Had the same been implemented this situation would have been forestalled. The government must desist from knee jerk reactions while responding to crises in the prisons. The government must therefore bear the full responsibility for the nine Kenyans already confirmed as dead from the Kamiti Maximum Prison cholera outbreak.
Collaboration of various actors is needed. Judges and Magistrates must exercise their judicial powers as visiting justices in prisons to monitor the conditions of the places they commit people to spend part or most of their time.
The police should explore alternative means of dealing with petty offenders while the ministry of Public Health must work closely with the Prison Department in maintaining acceptable sanitary conditions.
The Justice Ministry and Parliament must ensure that the Courts of Petty Session and the Small Claims Court bills are passed into law. The two courts shall assist to decongest the prisons for they will handle petty cases which currently plague the criminal justice system.
(This is a statement by the Legal Resources Foundation Trust. The LRF is a national Human Rights Organization implementing Administration of Justice Programme in the Kenyan criminal justice system).