Michael Irungu: a story of loss and gain

With half of Kenya’s population living below the poverty line, being born into a wealthy family has its privileges. After finishing primary school, Michael was given the opportunity to attend Alliance High School, a prestigious secondary school in Kenya. However, Michael failed to gain the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), having made a series of choices that ultimately lead to his arrest.

He was introduced to alcohol and drugs, consequently causing him to become an alcoholic and to drop out of the Alliance High School, along with four other high schools he attended thereafter. Michael’s relationship with his parents broke down. 

One evening, Michael and his friends were out drinking. He recalls, “I woke up at 3am laying in a corner of the bar we went to. The police are there, accusing me of theft.” He was taken to the police station and charged for theft of a beer pump. In court, out of pure ignorance Michael pleads guilty. During the mitigation process both the defence and prosecution agree on probation. Kenyan Law requires a recommendation before probation is granted, which Michael’s father refused to give, he was then convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

“My father not recommending me for probation broke my heart”, Michael admits. In 2014 he ended up in Naivasha Maximum Security Prison where he faced many challenges, but he was also presented with the opportunity to complete his high school education, which he jumped at, finally gaining his KCSE. Michael came across APP and found out about the various projects that were running at Naivasha. He joined the Legal Aid Clinic, working as a paralegal to support fellow inmates with legal advice. His interest in law grew deeper, leading him to apply for our University of London LLB programme.

Thanks to Michael’s determination he was recommended for probation due, in part, to his legal studies and his exemplary performance in his KCSE. He was released on 23rd March, 2017. 

Time in prison has had a profoundly positive impact on Michael’s life. His relationship with his parents has improved and now lives at home with them. He also has a clear plan for his future with a desire to engage in the work of APP and complete his LLB law degree. “APP has helped me greatly during my time in prison... And if I have to go back to prison to follow the lectures, that is what I will do.”

Above: Michael Irungu seen pictured first from right with the paralegal team/UoL students whilst still in prison

Above: Michael Irungu seen pictured first from right with the paralegal team/UoL students whilst still in prison