Prison a death trap, warn inmates but officials say new measures in place

By KNA On Thu, 26 Mar, 2020 15:07 | 3 mins read
A Kenya Red Cross staff during a sensitisation programme for prison warders and inmates on the prevention of coronavirus at GK Prison Kabarnet on Thursday March 26, 2020. PHOTO | KNA

Inmates at the Kabarnet GK Prisons have decried the prevailing hygiene conditions in the facility, saying it predisposes them to contracting the deadly COVID-19.

Speaking during sensitisation forum by Kenya Red Cross staff at the facility Thursday, the inmates said they it is difficult to practice social distancing while sharing blankets.

“If the disease strikes here, we will all be affected and may never survive it as we sleep in a line-up with body contact like closed fingers and sharing blankets,” demonstrated one of the inmates.

The inmates further complained that they share utensils and never have the comfort of observing basic hygiene like washing hands.

“We face many challenges while in here, for example, four people share a single blanket, we pray that the Government may grant us a free bond because the prison is so congested that we sleep at alternate times due to the lack of space and sometimes inmates stay in the toilet due to congestion,” one of them said. 

They requested for the closure of industries and other works that may expose them to the risk of contracting the Covid-19.

The prison’s officials, however, allayed the fears, saying they were going to put measures in place to reduce the risks posed by congestion and unhygienic conditions at the correctional facilities.

The Deputy County Commander Job Komen said they had already put up several handwashing points in the facility and have also started decongesting the facility by releasing petty offenders.

“We have already released six inmates and we are hoping to discharge a further 37 after their files are reviewed by the High Court Judge as per the broader plan of decongesting prisons by the judiciary,” added the officer.

 Komen said that they are also awaiting a review of remandees files as those with petty offences may be released on bond so as to bring down the numbers from 238 to the recommended 150 inmates.

“We want to reduce the population to a sizeable number which we can manage to ensure we stay safe from coronavirus pandemic,” said Komen. 

The Baringo County Commander of Prisons Martin Akwanyi said they have decided to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the staff and inmates by sensitising them about the coronavirus. 

He said they had also purchased the temperature detectors (thermal sgun) which they will use to test the prisoners in case they show symptoms of the diseases. 

“The Kenya Red Cross have come today to sensitize the wardens and inmates on coronavirus but we decided to put our focus on the wardens because they usually stay outside the premises of the prison, hence they can get infected and bring the virus to the prison,” the County Commander said. 

Mr. Akwanyi noted that they too, on their own initiative had improved on cleanliness in the prison and have also supplied enough soap for the whole community in the prison for use. 

“We have also been instructed to ensure the staff who are on leave or may have travelled should be isolated and tested for Covid-19 once they report back before attending to the inmates or even mingling with other staff,” he said.

The county commander also stated they had nominated 15 wardens and two inmates to be trained by the Kenya Red Cross on basic health skills so that they do not depend on the Red Cross all the time and in turn train the rest. 

“The two inmates who will be trained will report to us immediately when they suspect a fellow inmate as suffering from Covid-19 case or any other health issue,” said Akwanyi. 

He stated that the main challenge they face is the lack of a medical personnel, but he said they had requested for one from the medical superintendent and are hopeful their request will be considered. 

He also noted that Eldama Ravine Prison which falls under their jurisdiction, will also be sensitised on the pandemic even as they prepare to release seven inmates out of the 156 currently held in the facility whose capacity is a paltry 50 persons.

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