Once the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Kenya, the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) - who bring together all the justice agencies - met to discuss their response. Workers within the judiciary were advised to deal with only urgent cases and work from home where possible.
In order to limit the spread of coronavirus within prisons, the Kenya Judiciary has been holding hearings online to release prisoners where possible, decongesting its prisons and reducing overcrowding. In the past month, Kenya has released thousands of prisoners in different parts of the country via online hearings.
Whilst access to the prisons where we work is restricted, our paralegals continue to use their skills and training to provide legal services. Some of our paralegals have been preparing these cases for review, for those who can access bail or bond, for petty offenders, and for those whose sentences could be reduced.
On Friday 3rd April Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang'i - Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government - announced the following:
“The Kenya Prisons Service has released 3,837 prisoners and remandees in concurrence with the National Council on the Administration of Justice. Whilst the release of prisoners is an ongoing process, the Government remains committed to decongesting our prisons. Of those released:
- 2,267 had their sentences revised by High Courts.
- 898 are petty offenders and have served their jail terms.
- 627 have been freed after their bail/bond terms were reviewed by Magistrates Courts.”
More Than 250 Justice Defenders Clients Among Those Released
Of those who benefitted from the NCAJ review of sentences, bond and bail terms were a significant number of our justice defenders and their clients:
- Stanley Gitau Kihiu, a paralegal at Kiambu Prison trained and joined the team in December 2018 and was among the 30 convicted prisoners released from Kiambu Prison on 24th March 2020 following a sentence review by the Kiambu High Court. Stanley had been convicted to serve two years and nine months and was due to be released from prison on 22nd May 2020 after benefitting from remission.
- Also in Kiambu a total of 12 clients awaiting trial (held on remand) had their bond and bail terms reviewed and 9 clients had their bonds terms reduced, securing their release.
- From Limuru Court, one client received a free personal bond and nine clients had their bond and bail terms reduced.
- In Machakos Women's Prison Caroline Mbula, one of our newly recruited paralegals - who were undergoing training before the pandemic - was among the seven convicted prisoners whose sentences were reviewed by Machakos High Court on 27th March and were released.
- A total of 14 remandees names were forwarded to various courts for review of their bond terms at Tawa Law Courts 2, Machakos Law Court 6, Kangundo Law Court 3 and Mavoko Law Court 3. They are yet to be released.
- In Machakos Main Prison a total of 56 clients had their sentences reviewed by Machakos High Court and were released.
- In Naivasha Medium Prison 26 clients in remand and convicted prisoners had their sentences and bond terms reviewed and got released.
- In Naivasha Women’s Prison nine women both in remand and convicted prisoners were released.
- In Thika Main Prison 29 clients held on remand secured their releases following the review of their bond and bail terms.
- In Thika Women’s Prison 14 applications were made for the review of bond and bail terms and eight clients were released after paying the new bond terms. One client had her sentence reviewed by Kiambu High Court and was released on a non-custodial sentence and three were released by Kandara Law Court after their sentences were reviewed.
- In Langata Women’s Prison 83 clients, both those held on remand and convicted prisoners, were released following the review of their sentences, bond and bail terms.
- Two paralegals released
- 123 convicted prisoners released
- 138 remand prisoners released
This work was carried out from 8 of our law clinics in the medium security prisons and Langata Women’s Prison.
Defenders of the Defenceless
We train paralegals and lawyers within defenceless communities to provide legal services for themselves and others. Because everyone deserves a fair hearing.
In the midst of the current crisis, our work goes on. Prisons are already places of isolation, limited healthcare and uncertain futures. Our justice defenders are able to continue their work amongst our communities contributing to the impact of these unusual hearings to ensure equal justice for all.