, MOMBASA, April 9 – A man said to be one of the oldest prisoners in the country was set free late Tuesday after spending 37 years in confinement.
James Malowa, 66, could not believe it when authorities at Shimo La Tewa Maximum Prison in Mombasa told him that he was a free man.
“He was a bit shocked when we told him to walk to freedom. He could not believe it because he was serving a life sentence,” said Wanini Kireri, the prison’s officer in charge.
The father of two who hails from Kisumu was convicted for murder in 1978 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
“Prior to that, he had served seven years in jail for another assault case,” Kireri said. “He had reformed and deserved a pardon.”
In a telephone interview with Capital Newsbeat on Wednesday, Kireri explained that the jailbird was released under a Presidential Amnesty.
A board constituted to come up with names of convicts who deserved a pardon had recommended Malowa’s release.
“They examined him and concluded that he was among prisoners who qualified for the pardon. That is why he was set free,” she explained.
Malowa was freed late Tuesday and given a ticket to board a bus to his rural home in Kisumu.
Kenyan law dictates that authorities visit the rural home of a convict to establish if he would be welcomed by his relatives once released.
“Members of the board had already done this and they established that the old man was safe if set free,’ she said.
Once in a year, convicts who have served more than half their sentences are set free at the mercy of the President.
In most cases, such pardons are done randomly and mainly target petty offenders. The number of those released each year varies.
It is not common for lifetime convicts to be released from prison, making Malowa’s case a rare one.