From Death to Life
Samuel Ndung’u was released from Naivasha Prison, Kenya, on 23rd July 2019 after 10 years - despite being sentenced to death almost a decade ago. Before his arrest, Samuel worked as an electrician, a job he enjoyed and has continued to engage in while in prison. According to him, prison has made him realise his abilities. While in prison, he has become a paralegal, among several other skills he’s gained. He’s served as a prison trustee, a church leader, and a school headteacher at the prison academy. His prayer is that his transition back to the community will be a smooth one.
A Presidential Pardon
Having been charged with murder, Samuel was sentenced to death in 2009. However, he was soon pardoned by former President Mwai Kibaki after all death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Within 14 days of his sentencing, Samuel had already appealed his sentence as prescribed by the law. Following his appeal, his charges were reduced to manslaughter in 2012 and he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with remission. This meant that a third of his sentence would be struck out. Therefore, Samuel would only serve 10 years.
A Legal Education
In 2014, APP made its way into Naivasha Maximum Prison granting inmates the opportunity to study a Diploma in Common Law via the University of London’s distance learning programme. Samuel was interested and immediately submitted his documents for consideration. Although he met the general required minimum grade for qualification, his English language grade was below what was required. This locked him out of the opportunity to study law. However, he took part in legal training and became one of APP’s paralegals.
“I felt compelled to work as a paralegal having witnessed many people suffer in remand prison due to lack of legal knowledge,” says Samuel.
The Impact of Prison Legal Services
Unlike many others in prison, Samuel believes that his state lawyer, both during his trial and in his appeal, provided him with quality legal representation. When the Justice Changemaker services programme was introduced at the prison to offer legal aid, Samuel states that many of the inmates were skeptical about the quality of services being offered. But with time, they built their confidence as a result of successful outcomes in court.
“I enjoy assisting others.” Samuel shares, “People come back to me and say, “The application you made or the advice you gave me has really helped me”. This encourages me; it has changed my life. In addition to that, the legal aid programme has largely impacted the prison fraternity in Naivasha. Many inmates have benefited from quality legal services as a result.”
From Life Imprisonment to Team Leader
After spending slightly over a decade in prison, Samuel completed his sentence on 23rd of July 2019. A day he has eagerly awaited. Speaking to Samuel, it is evident that he is worried about how the society will receive him. His prayer is that his transition back to the community will be a smooth one.
“Samuel has been of great support to the inmates. He is disciplined and a team leader. When you give him a task, he will ensure that it is well accomplished,” Madam Wambui, Social Welfare Officer at Naivasha Medium Prison.
Samuel looks forward to reuniting with his son and the rest of his family. He hopes to get back to self-employment and start a welding workshop. He would equally like to use his legal knowledge to advise people on their legal issues around churches and in schools.
You Can Provide Access to Justice
Many in prison have no access to legal services. They cannot afford a lawyer and do not understand a complicated and intimidating legal system. Sometimes the system is slow and unreliable. At other times it is unfamiliar and out of reach.
Our work seeks to equip prisoners and prisoner staff with legal knowledge to help themselves and those around them. We offer a world-class legal education, in partnership with the University of London, as well as paralegal training, and we provide legal awareness sessions in prisons across Kenya and Uganda. Without this many would never see a lawyer.
Access to justice is unavailable to many of those who need it most. Join us as we seek to empower men and women who’ve come in conflict with the law to apply the law for the benefit of those around them. Through this we’ve seen sentences reduced, prisoners released, and a justice system work more effectively for everyone.