Prison unlocks opportunities for inmates

Published on 14/10/2011

By Kevin Tunoi

Stigmatisation of former prisoners – as bad influence and a menace to the society – leads them to commit more crimes and end up back at the correctional facilities.

Despite this challenge, there is one prisoner who is confident he would be accorded a warm reception when he returns home.

Moses Chirchir, a prisoner at the Ngeria Farm Prison in Uasin Gishu, says the prison has empowered him to be independent and he can be of much help to his community when he is finally released.

With only two months and 10 days to the end of his three-year incarceration, Chirchir has earned credentials after graduating in disciplines that will see him become a productive person once he goes back home.

“I have received a certificate on low cost and appropriate building technology from the Ministry of Housing,” he said.

Chirchir has further acquired a certificate in sustainable agriculture that includes crop husbandry, soil fertility management, integrated pest management and land preparation techniques. He has learned how to make liquid soap, yoghurt, fruit jam and juice.

The inmate has also obtained a comprehensive certificate on peer education.

“I also got trained on HIV/Aids testing and counselling, drugs and substance abuse in relation to HIV/Aids, stigma and discrimination and sexual reproductive health and rights,” Chirchir said.

Chirchir says that come December he will show his family and the community in Cherangany constituency that he has changed for the better.

“When I come out of the prison, I will have a way of making money through the different short courses that I have done behind bars,” said Chirchir.

He emphasizes the importance of organic farming because it improves soil fertility and the food produced has no chemical components that are harmful. “I also learnt of value addition when there is surplus produce. For example, when there is an excess of tomatoes or milk I can make jam or yoghurt,” he said.

The prisoner said that he will pass down the knowledge he has acquired to the youth and women through outreaches.

Fully rehabilitate

Chirchir was not the only one who graduated. Thirty five other prisoners were also awarded certificates in a ceremony that was graced by Georgia Burford of Interact Worldwide, a UK-based non governmental organisation.

Most notable among the graduates were six old prisoners who received proficiency certificates in basic reading, writing and numeracy from the Ministry of Education’s Directorate of Adult and Continuing Learning.

Barnabas Keino, the officer in charge, Ngeria Farm Prison, said that since the certificates don’t indicating that they were awarded in prison, the graduates have a high probability of getting employed. “Most employers fear that people who have been in prison are still criminals and that is the reason they would not employ them.

Barnabas assured employers that former prisoners are capable of change and should not be discriminated against. He said that with the skills that the prisoners have acquired, they can make a living and stay away from criminal activities.

“The HIV/Aids trainings that have been conducted in this and other prisons in Kenya are relevant because the pandemic is affecting both the prison staff and the prisoners alike,” Barnabas said.

Trainings in the prisons have been conducted by Resources Oriented Development Initiative (Rodi), an NGO that has been working with prisoners since 1989.

Ms Esther Bett, the programmes manager of Rodi, says the NGO works with 20 per cent of the prisoners who have completed their terms in a follow up programme.

“We also offer a component of after care for the prisoners who are infected by HIV/Aids by ensuring they produce their own food to supplement the anti retro viral drugs that they are using,” she said.

The NGO is currently working with 60 community groups throughout Kenya formed by ex-prisoners to make them stay away from criminal activities and be financially stable.

Rodi and Interact Worldwide have launched a five-year programme in prisons in Nairobi, Central, Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces aimed at fully rehabilitating the prisoners.

 

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