Celebrating progress at Lang'ata Women's Prison

Launching the Jones Day Lang’ata Women and Children Library and the Phoebe Asiyo Legal Aid Clinic

Each year on the 18th of July, the United Nations joins the Mandela Foundation in asking people around the world to give 67 minutes of their time to serving others; an event inspired by a call from Nelson Mandela for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices.

We were delighted to mark the occasion with two key milestones in the life of Lang’ata Women’s Prison, Nairobi. We celebrated the launch of the Jones Day Lang’ata Women and Children Library alongside the opening of the Phoebe Asiyo Legal Aid Clinic.

The brand new facilities were officially opened by the Commissioner General of the Kenya Prison Service, Isaya Osugo, with guests including international media houses, representatives from foreign embassies, national agencies and the judiciary, as well as individuals from the business world and private sector. There was an air of excitement and celebration as people arrived and received an enthusiastic welcome from prison staff, inmates and the APP team.

The event started with a tree planting ceremony, symbolising the growth and continuity of the partnership between APP and the Kenya Prisons Service, signaling a commitment to see it continue to flourish. Celebrations were marked with a variety of entertainment organised by inmates and staff, from traditional dances, to spoken word performances and heartfelt speeches.

The Jones Day Lang’ata Women and Children Library

Funded by the Jones Day Foundation, the brand new library is the first-of-its-kind facility and will provide more than six hundred women and children—including prison staff and their families—with access to a wealth of relevant educational materials and supported learning opportunities such as book clubs, debates and creative writing.

There was a tremendous sense of pride from the Commissioner General as he stated that ‘…this is the best library facility that we have in the country.’ These kinds of facilities are key to our Life Skills Programme which also includes a Functional Adult Literacy course and vocational training, providing prisoners with the opportunity to enter employment post-release. The brand new facility, alongside the training of library assistants, will provide the Lang’ata prison community with a remarkable resource to support access to education.

The Phoebe Asiyo Legal Aid Clinic

The legal aid clinic, funded by law firm Allen & Overy, is named after Phoebe Asiyo, the first female African Officer in Charge at the Lang’ata Women’s Prison and will play a role similar to Drop-in Legal Advice Clinics.

Many people who find themselves in prison are from poor and marginalised groups of society, often with low literacy levels, lack of education and unable to afford the services of a lawyer. In many cases they will have to navigate the complex justice system alone.

Prisoners and staff enrolled within our Law Programme will work under the supervision of practicing lawyers to provide free, on-the-spot, face-to-face legal advice to the prison community. We believe that inmates and prison staff can play a pivotal role in prison reform, both in providing their fellow peers access to human rights as well as advocating on their behalf.

By equipping the prison community in this way we hope to create the next generation of penal reformers in Africa, contributing towards the mainstreaming of a human rights based approach to prisons.

Positive Transformation; Inspiring Nations

Both the library and legal aid clinic will play an invaluable role in our continued endeavour to see prisons as places of positive transformation, building a platform from which to share innovation and inspire entire nations; and it is because of this that we want to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have supported our work to make this possible, to the staff and inmates at Lang’ata for their hard work and organisation on the day, and to all those who attended the opening event and celebrated alongside us.