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Prison inquiry committee inaugurated

NAIROBI, May 7 – Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka Wednesday inaugurated a reconstituted 14-member committee that would investigate the crisis in the country’s prisons service and recommend reforms to improve the welfare of warders and inmates.

The committee will be chaired by former Cabinet Minister Marsden Madoka and is expected to table its recommendations in June.

Musyoka urged the committee members to inquire into all the grievances raised by the prisons’ staff and other matters that could help accelerate long lasting reforms in the country’s penal institutions.

“I’m sure Kenyans want to see results, so to whom much is given much is expected,” Musyoka urged.

Prison warders downed their tools a fortnight ago demanding better working and living conditions. The government heeded their demands and offered them Sh10,000 each as a token for the work they did during the election period and another Sh5,000 each risk allowance.

At the same time the government accelerated ongoing housing projects for the officers.

The VP had initially constituted an eight-member committee but it was rejected by the warders.

Musyoka’s predecessor Moody Awori and ex-prisons boss Abraham Kamakil also opted not to take up their appointments to the initial investigative body.

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Awori indicated that he was busy with personal commitments and dismissed the necessity of the committee, saying that he had already submitted a report on proposed reforms within the sector.

However at the inauguration, Musyoka said that the new body would evaluate the present situation besides looking at past reports on the issue.

“We are not going to ignore anything else that has been done, but I can tell you also a lot more needs to be done. This committee will therefore not be tied by any past recommendations,” he uttered.

The committee would also receive submissions by members of the public and other interested parties.

Other members of the task force include former National Assembly Clerk Japheth Masya, former Members of Parliament (MPs) Wafula Wamunyinyi and Ibrahim Mohamed, Social Scientist Benea Mutsotso, lawyers Alice Nderitu and Kemunto Omwenga and clerics Reverend Kepha Omae and Sheikh Sharif Hussein.

The committee also incorporates representatives from the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and the Ministries of Public Service, Housing and Finance with Emily Gatuguta and Davis Chirchir as the joint secretaries.

Madoka has promised that the committee would work tirelessly to fulfil their mandate.

“When we saw some of the captions on television we were very shocked, so it is proper that we get down to it and see what can be done,” he committed.

Musyoka urged citizens to air their views to the committee, and help the government address the problems facing the institution once and for all.

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“The reforms you will be coming up with could be used across the board to give Kenyans the kind of country they want,” he said.

Among the issues the committee is expected to tackle are recommendations for the improvement of the terms of service and working conditions for prisons’ staff, while examining any shortfall in the present management structure.

They will also look at the resource base at the institutions and how best to utilise them to improve productivity and service delivery to international standards.

Other areas include staff discipline, security at the prisons and the possibility of reviewing the laws that govern the prisons service.

Recent television footage showcasing the warders’ ramshackle and overcrowded housing units caused a public outcry, giving weight to the prison guards’ strike.

Awori had instituted major reforms in the sector but they were mainly directed at the inmates and largely sidelined the warders.


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