In Summary
  • According to the director in charge of prison enterprises, Mr Josephat Ituka, the project dates back to 1927, and it is being undertaken  in 90 prisons across the country.
  • Ms Ondili says that there is the Hobbies and Handcraft Programmes where prisoners are allowed to transact their products by accepting orders from warders and police who then pay them.

Seventy-four year old Mike Wambwa is serving a life sentence at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kiambu.

He has been at the penitentiary for 24 years. His fellow inmate, 38-year-old David Ongai, has served 14 years. He too, is serving a life sentence.

The two are part of the 600 inmates from prisons across the country who have undergone vocational training under the Kenya Prisons Enterprise Industry.

This is one of the many programmes that the Kenya Prisons Service runs to rehabilitate inmates serving six years and above to prepare them for life outside prison.

According to the assistant commissioner of prisons, Mr Henry Kisingu, the programmes are meant to provide inmates with meaningful work experience since most of them look forward to ultimately returning to their communities.

Under these programmes, inmates spend hours each day honing their skills in jobs such as mechanics, metalwork, carpentry, tailoring, fabric design, ceramic and stone carving.

CHANGE FROM INSIDE OUT

The sergeant in charge of sales at the KPS showroom at Magereza House, Community area, in Nairobi, Alice Ondili, says that prisoners begin work at 8a.m. until 4 p.m.

And with loads of time on their hands, the inmates have been churning out an array of intricately designed furniture, carvings, paintings, and beautiful art pieces.

According to the director in charge of prison enterprises, Mr Josephat Ituka, the project dates back to 1927, and it is being undertaken  in 90 prisons across the country.

“This idea by the colonialists was based on the belief that vocational training was best way to keep prisoners busy and to give them some form of self esteem, because they could produce work that would be sold to maintain their needs,” he says.

And the products are of very high quality. Most of them are made from mahogany; they include seats, wardrobes, office cabinets and desks, beds and coffee tables.

“We source the wood from Congo in bulk at a cheap price and the fabrics we source locally from Gikomba. The prisoners are trained by police service officers and when a prisoner passes, he or she is allowed to teach the others,” Ms Ondili says.

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