President William Ruto has asked the Interior and Housing ministries to move prisons in towns to create space to expand the urban centres.
Dr Ruto has urged the ministries to develop masterplans that would see new spacious prisons established to hold the rising number of inmates and free space in major towns that have the facilities.
The Kenya Prison Service operates 108 prison institutions of which eighteen are women's prisons, 87 are for male offenders, while three (3) are for juvenile male offenders ― two Borstal Institutions and one Youth Corrective Training Centre (YCTC).
"To solve the problem of overcrowding in our prisons, free up land in urban centres for critical public services and provide more space to accommodate prison population and raining facilities," Dr Ruto said during the Prisons Service Training College pass-out parade last month.
"The Cabinet Secretaries responsible for Interior and Public Works have been instructed to urgently develop a Prisons Masterplan which will be used to identify and develop new prison sites."
Most correctional facilities and prisons in the country are located in busy urban centres, limiting space for expansion as the number of convicts rises.
Nairobi for instance has three maximum prisons and three other short-sentence facilities located in the industrial area and residential estates.
The other prisons in the country are hosted in major towns and county headquarters. President Ruto has said that alternative land should be identified so that there is more space to accommodate the prison population and training facilities in prisons.
“This will provide ample opportunities to impart necessary skills, training and education through correctional services in the spirit of rehabilitation and reform,” he said.
The population in prisons are beyond their capacity with most of the facilities constructed during the colonial period and a few after independence.
The 2022-2023 Economic survey released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicated that the total number of inmates increased from 160,121 in 2021 to 169,579 in 2022 with 60.8 percent being remandees.
Dr Ruto said to correct and rehabilitate offenders; the country needs prisons with new centres that host training facilities to help prisoners acquire new skills.
“In particular, the rehabilitation and correction framework focus on reform, re-direction as well as the empowerment of prisoners for effective social participation,” he said.
The Prisons Department has been allocated Sh31.3 billion, with Sh377 million going for projects in the 2023-24 budget.
During the pass-out parade, a total of 222 cadet officers graduate as Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) maintains its reforms process.
Among the graduate cadet officers included medical doctors, engineers, mental health experts, actuarial scientists, agricultural officers and lawyers reflecting the adoption of best practices and succession planning at KPS.
KPS Training College now compares favourably with other disciplined forces cadet schools like the Kenya Military Academy and is now attracting, retaining and rewarding top talent.
Out of the 222 graduates, 27 are serving officers and 84 are female. The cadets were drawn from various professionals including actuarial scientists (6), lawyers (5), medical (38), journalism (7), procurement (10), criminology (13), ICT (15), finance (19), education (28), economics (11), and social work (10).
KPS Commissioner General John Warioba said prisons had realigned their operations to create an environment where offenders correct their ways and get a second chance.
The service now places a premium on rehabilitation and correction unlike in the past when correctional facilities were seen as places for punishment and retribution.