Prisoners with good conduct will have their sentences cut by a third in efforts to decongest jails if a proposed law is approved.
The reduction in the prison term will, however, not apply to those serving life sentences or convicted of robbery with violence charges.
Kenya’s 110 prisons are congested and struggling with a budget deficit that has led to a biting food shortage and mounting debts. Plans are underway to build nine more prisons to ease congestion.
“Convicted criminal prisoners sentenced to imprisonment, whether by one sentence or consecutive sentences, for a period exceeding one month, may by industry (hard work) and good conduct earn a remission of one-third of their sentence or sentences,” reads part of the Bill sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale – who presents Cabinet-backed Bills to Parliament.
The amendment to the Prisons Act is contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2015.
This is a Bill that the government uses to make minor amendments to numerous Acts at a go.
A Judiciary task force recently reported that local prisons currently host more than double their inmates’ capacity. The task force appointed by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said the prisons designed for an average of 26,000 people a day were holding 52,143 inmates.
“These provisions are integral to the Work of the Power of Mercy Committee as it assists in decongesting the prisons and encouraging good behaviour in prisons,” notes the Bill.
The Commissioner of Prisons will also have the right to deny a jailed person any cut in their time if in his opinion the prisoner is not yet reformed.
The Internal Security Secretary will also have powers to oppose the reduced sentence in the interest of public security or public order.
High food prices and the rising number of inmates have made it difficult for prisons to meet convicts’ food needs, according to the department.
Sources at the department said it had been prompted to cut inmates’ food rations, which are normally half-cooked ugali served with a sprinkle of beans or vegetables.
It’s normal to find more than 3,000 inmates sharing a prison designed for only 800, with the majority charged with breaching drinking laws and petty thefts.
Official data shows that 23.3 per cent of the 109,629 inmates in prisons last year were charged under the Liquor Act, while 13.1 per cent or 14,415 for theft of property.
Former President Mwai Kibaki started prison reforms which led to the introduction of better meals, TV sets and the replacement of tattered uniforms and mattress.