On Saturday, April 1st 2017, two senior prison officers from the Kenya Prison Service arrived at Heathrow early in the morning after a long flight from Nairobi to London. With funding from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, APP is supporting the Kenyan delegates in the UK for a three months Secondment Programme, during which time they will learn about the British criminal justice system and gain important exposure experiences in British prisons.
APP has established the Secondment Programme with a view to empowering prison leaders, developing their skills and professional networks in order to enhance their ability to implement sustainable, long-term improvements. The project stems from the recognition that is not possible to bring change in the lives of inmates without thinking about prison staff, nurturing their growth and well-being. By identifying the men and women who are already serving their communities and know prison better than anyone else, change can be influenced from the bottom up and be brought in a sustainable manner.
The secondees were selected by APP to join the Programme because of their passion and commitment to penal reform, as demonstrated through many years of dedicated service in Kenyan prisons.
Francis Opondo – Frank – joined the Kenya Prisons Service in the year 1990 as a recruit trainee constable and has risen through the ranks to his current role of Officer in Charge of Kericho Medium Prison. Frank is a discreet but potent champion of prison reform, a pioneer in setting up functional legal offices supporting education and human rights in penal institutions. He is keen to acquire new techniques and skills to launch new rehabilitation programmes for offenders in his institution and country-wise.
Francis Kimani is the current Deputy Officer in Charge Kamiti Youth Corrective Training Centre. He joined Kenya Prisons Service in the year 1993 and has worked in various institutions at managerial positions, contributing to the advancement of the Department's reform agenda in his 23 years of service. Francis is passionate about empowering the youth through entrepreneurship programmes and by creating linkages with existing enterprises that can help juveniles turn their lives around.
Despite the lengthy overnight flight, the secondees arrived full of excitement, ready to explore the UK and happy to settle into their new home in Earlsfield. Over the early weeks of the Programme, they become more familiar with London and its ever-daunting transport system, gaining an already impressive degree of independence travel-wise. The secondees had a first hand experience of the British judicial system visiting the Parliament, the Old Bailey, the Royal Courts of Justice, shadowing law professionals and meeting with High Court judges. They were able to witness how trials are conducted and had the opportunity to visit Police Stations, gaining first-hand experience of the very initial stages of the ‘offender’s journey’.
Moreover, the strategic meetings they attended helped them unpack the biggest challenges they face back home and identify the information they desire to obtain whilst in the UK to address such difficulties upon return. From its very outset, the Secondment Programme aims to support the officers achieve their long-term goals, enhance their performance, develop action plans and stress-test the implementation of the same in an effort to develop their resilience to challenges.
APP has great expectations for Frank and Francis and is prepared and honoured to support their endeavours for the months and years to come. Many among their returned colleagues have already been able to demonstrate remarkable achievements in a relatively short time. We are particularly proud of our 2015 Alumni Secondee Olivia Obell, Officer in Charge of Lang'ata Women Prison, who was recently bestowed the Huduma Ombudsman Award (2017) 'for transformative leadership, innovation and exemplary work in Kenya's correctional facilities.
With three of the thirteen weeks complete, our current secondees still have a long way to go and a lot to assimilate before reuniting with their families in Kenya. However, they have already located where to purchase key ingredients for good, homely African cooking – including the much adored Ugali – which will trustfully soften the possible pangs of nostalgia ahead.
Everyone in APP is eager to wish Francis and Frank the best of luck in their UK journey and to support them in the course of the coming weeks of training, networking, reflection and laughter.