Kenya Prisons Service is headed by the commissioner of prisons. It derives its mandate from the Prisons Act, Borstal Act and Public Service Commission Act.
Kenya Prisons Service functions are to contain and keep offenders in safe custody, rehabilitate and reform offenders, facilitate administration of justice and promote prisoners opportunities for social re-integration. To decongest the prisons, non-custodial sentences such as community service are used by courts as alternative to jail terms.
The prison’s Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) was launched in 2007 to harness team strength and client participation to speed up delivery of services within 100 days. The approach tackled large-scale, medium and long-term change efforts through a series of small-scale, results-producing and momentum-building initiative.
Over the years, many changes and reviews have taken place in the service, resulting in the current Prisons Act (Cap 90) and Borstal Act (Cap 92), and more recently in 1999, the Extra Mural Penal Employment was abolished and replaced with Community Service Orders (CSO) under the Department of Probation and Aftercare Services.
Prisons had been known to hold up to 10 times the number of inmates they were originally designed for.
The Community Service Orders have proved a useful tool in rehabilitating those charged with minor offences, thus reducing the number of people being jailed. New accommodation Limits have been constructed for inmates in specific prisons to ease congestion and new prisons have been built in Yatta, Makueni and Kwale Prisons.
Kenya’s prisons have continued to offer inmates rehabilitation programs and vocational education and training that would help them be reintegrated into the society and actively participate in positive socio-economic engagements upon release. In most cases, ex-convicts are stigmatized in their communities when they return after completion of their jail terms. The skills gained enhance their chances of engaging in gainful employment and minimize their chances of returning to criminal activities.
Inmates also engage in mushroom production, carpentry, garment making, upholstery, metal work, soap making, saloon management and cosmetology, masonry, painting, knitting, pottery and brick making.
Efforts to enhance rehabilitation services have been stepped up by recruiting professionals in relevant disciplines, including religion, psychology, social work, medicine, engineering and law.
The Prison Service has also strived to improve the terms and conditions for its wardens by improving their terms of service and retraining them in areas, such as human rights, for better management of the prisoners under their charge.
The Directorate of Prisons Enterprises engages inmates in agricultural and industrial production. Inmates grow cash crops, such as tea in Kericho Prison and Uruku Prison in Meru, coffee in Nyeri, Ruiru, Shikusa, Kerugoya and Embu Prisons, pyrethrum in Uruku Prison, cotton in Makueni Prison to oil crops grown in Coast and Western provinces.
Kenya Prison, in conjunction with mobile phone service provider Safaricom, installed mobile phone jammers and CCTV cameras in Kamiti and Naivasha prisons in a bid to enhance security and deter the use of phones to commit offences from within the correction institutions through illegal communication.
Dog units were also introduced in major prisons to improve security control. To improve the skills of prison’s officers and staff, a modern training wing was constructed at the Kenya Prison’s Staff Training College in Ruiru.
The Kenya Prison’ industrial wing supplied seats for the refurbished Parliament and the Milimani courts.