Our objective is to develop a community of Justice Changemakers who can use the law to persistently pursue justice for the most vulnerable in society.

We work to empower people in prison to drive positive change. We work alongside prisoners and staff to enable them to become agents of change, participating in and reforming the justice system from within. Meet APP's fantastic Justice Changemakers:

 
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Conceptah Akhitsa 

Paralegal: lang'ata women's prison

I have been in prison for nine years. 

A few interesting things about me: 
1: I have skills in being a paralegal
2: I have access to justice
3: I can help my fellow inmates to have a fair trial

Three important things that I want to achieve when I am out of prison:
1: To have a good community
2: Educate those who need education
3: Help the needy e.g. orphans and the disabled

What happened as a result for you learning and having skills as a paralegal?
I had a client who had an assault case. She had a fight with her friend for hitting her husband. When she came to me, I advised her to go forward with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR). When she went to court, she talked to the complainant and they applied ADR. It was accepted and the case was taken outside of court. She went home. All this happened after APP gave me the skills to access justice, which is why ADR worked.

What do you feel APP has done for you?
APP's work has made me feel like an important person who has value just like others. it is good to know what is going around the world. APP has made me aware of my rights and access to them. With APP, I can make my fellow inmates and anyone who needs my help know his/her rights.

Family background:
I was born in a family of seven, two boys and five girls. One has passed on, so there are now six of us. My family is not well off, both my parents are at home (rural area) and are old. They don’t have a business. Before I came to prison, I used to work as a housekeeper in order to help my parents.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to another lady?
I would advise that crime does not pay and that being in prison is not the end of your life. There is still life after prison. Through trusting in God and praying, having skills that will help you and using them to help other people who are in need of you.

What do you miss the most?
I miss my child and my parents since it is now nine years I haven’t seen them. Missing my freedom and also giving advice and the skills of justice to the community who does not know their rights and to those who are still in crime to know that crime does not pay.

But I am now happy through APP's services.  I have done my diploma in theology and other programs. Being a form three student, I appreciate APP.  

 
 
 
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Sarah Karaba 

Paralegal: lang'ata women's prison

I’m 40 now, it’s my 16th year in prison. I was alleged of murder. I was arrested back in 2002 and sentenced to the death penalty in 2005. Since then, I’ve been behind bars until 2009 when my sentence was commuted to life sentence.

The journey of being a prisoner started from my parents dispute due to our land. This is where my father sold the entire land to a land broker. After a long snail pace of hearings the land case was determined to be brought back to us while the land buyer had nothing to claim. One morning due to dissatisfaction, he confronted us to our homestead and a tug of war took place leaving him dead.

I am a go-getter. Living an optimistic life is progress. Being successful comes with a risk. I am an ambassador for peace, and I campaign about peace for it’s the bottom line of joy. Peace co-joins pieces. With peace, we can have hope for tomorrow if today we have stairs of peace.

As a mother, I do care. Once you educate a mother, you’ve elevated and raised a standard of entire world I do like to be a model. I like mentoring others as far is wisdom is the key to wealth. Mentorship comes with new ideas.

After life in prison, I would like to be able to give probono services and achieve to be a barrister or solicitor. This will help me to share all the knowledge of justice to the marginalised and the poor irrespective of life backgrounds. My desire is to also establish a legal center whereby I can be giving awareness sessions of law. Law is law is law. Every human life is underpinned by law. Even in heaven, I will reach because of prioritising the effectiveness and the impact of being honest. I would like to raise a policy to introduce basic constitutional rights at the primary education level where every child should know his or her rights without violation.

APP has changed my foundation. An eye opener that life can start at any time. Life is how we see it. Teamwork is also an essential virtue that never existed in me. Now I value my neighbour and appreciate all humans. Inmates are people too because two are better than one. Unity is always stronger as two heads are always the master key. APP have introduced and and established a legal aid clinic within our locality. I was given skills for free so to contribute freely also reaps rewards.

Today as a result of the new skills as a paralegal, I have a standing innovation. I have a new platform of life. I do assist my fellow inmates to do plea bargaining, bail and bond application, mitigations and submissions. Nothing that adds more in life than just writing an argument of a case within our constitutional right and judges agreeing with our points just like any other competent colleagues.

Confidence is another virtue. I don’t imagine of a good virtue in living confidently to myself, and also creating the same virtue to my fellow inmates such that they can trust me with their cases and get released from crime.

Responsibility. Since I came to embrace justice, this is a responsibility from the entire environment. Prison administration are obligating new responsibilities for me with trust - that a change is for all of us.

My touching success story was for my fellow inmate who was charged of robbery with violence. I wrote a submission arguing with law and felt like it was a dream that came to reality. There’s a chance for all dreams coming true with a reason and a purpose.

I’ve lived as a leader, family adviser in a family of six. Talented as a spearhead of empathy and resilience. A piece of advice to society is to read Romans 12.2 and to be a thermostat not a thermometer. Wherever you are. We are the ambassadors of this word and even on heaven.
 

 
 
 
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Elizabeth Awuour

Paralegal: lang'ata women's prison

I'm 30 years old, serving 17 years with a case of manslaughter.

Some positive things about myself is that I enjoy schooling, singing and writing. When I am out of prison, I want to be supporting people through probono work, being a probono lawyer and preaching gospel. 

How has APP benefited you? 
Providing me with the legal education and empowering me. Beforehand, I did not have the confidence in me, at all. But now I can stand up for myself, without fear or fearing anyone. I can also stand for myself as well when we have the legal awareness sessions, I am able to teach and also speak-out during debates.  

What has happened as a result of learning these skills?
I feel good when I see some inmates going home because of me managing to help them. I also feel good when I see someone’s sentence being reduced and when giving them legal advice through ADR and they negotiate and you see someone going home through that.

A few things about your family and yourself?
My family is of 10 children from one mother. I am an orphan. In our family, we were six girls and four boys, but now four girls have passed away so there are only two of us. They are still young. My big brother is the one who has been standing for our family as our father, and now he is suffering and has been sick for the last three years. You can imagine how serious it was and he is the only breadwinner that we have in our family. He was still the one who was supporting me when I am in prison, even up till now. He can’t walk properly but he is still undertaking medicine. I know one day he will stand and walk again.

About me, when I was outside prison, I was a single parent. Having one kid, she is now eight years old. I was a salonist. I just fought with my friend and I stabbed her with a knife in the process of fighting because she was the one who had that knife. I was trying to defend myself. I was taken to the police and from that day, I became a prisoner. I took three years in remand when I was going through my trial and I was sentenced for 17 years in prison.In prison, I have learned many skills - I know how to pleat beads, create handcrafted goods, sewing, and doing embroidery. I am now in school. I am in form three class hoping to pass the KCSE. I am looking forward to study law when I pass the KCSE, it is my dream.

As of now, my child is staying with my cousins because I don’t have a big sister who can stay with her. I left her when she was two years and seven months, but now, she is approaching eight years and I thank God for that. I am still waiting for my appeal to go through. I am praying that they will reduce my sentence and I will go home.

 
 
 
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Ruth Kamande

Paralegal: lang'ata women's prison

The name that I prefer to be known as, especially in my written poems and songs is ‘Biggie Kamande’. I have been in prison for almost three years and I miss my freedom. Three interesting things about myself: I am a poet (I can write and recite), I can compose songs and sing, I love writing short fictional stories. Before live behind bars, I was working with the Horizon Contact Centre for Airtel Kenya in the visa card department along Mombasa Road.

I am a trained paralegal through APP - I’m actually glad to have been given such an opportunity to acquire basic legal aid. Initially, I really did not know how the law worked or what the court required of me. But now that I have been given this knowledge, I am even able to help my fellow inmates with their cases. Especially the ones without advocates.

I am in a good position to draft cross-examination questions, defences, submissions and even mitigations. Through this skill offered to me by the APP, I have had success stories. My favourite one is of Lydia Wanjiku who was charged with the possession of a narcotic drug. I helped her with her case by drafting a defence for her whereby she got a non custodial sentence of four months. With all the advice we shared together, I believe that she is making use of her freedom.

Three most important things that I would like to achieve when I’m out of prison are to be a motivational speaker, I want to be able to record songs, and I would love to continue helping inmates all over the world with their cases especially the less fortunate.

A piece of advice I would give to anyone is based on echoing Robert Sharma’s father who said “son, when you were born, the world rejoiced whilst you cried, live a life that when you are gone, the world will cry while you rejoice”.

A little more about me is that my favourite music is rock - my favourite artist is Adam Lambert and my favourite song of his is “What You Want From Me”. I miss eating pizza, it was my favourite. I love reading novels, my favourites are ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and ‘The Rule of Four’. I miss my older brother whose demise came as a surprise in 2017. It’s been really difficult to experience especially being here in prison, I never got a chance to say goodbye to him… But I am glad to be a member of APP family because Sir McLean and the rest were here for me. It’s a family that I will forever want to be part of. When I totally thought that I’d had lost hope and didn’t want to live anymore, APP restored my hope and showed me how to live a life behind bars. It’s a family that I will forever be grateful to.

 
 
 
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Pauline Mbugua 

Paralegal: lang'ata women's prison 

My name is Pauline E. Njeri. I am 59 years old and I would say that I am generous, open-minded and polite.

I want to get married, write a book, and practice my skills as a paralegal and preferably become a lawyer.

APP has given me an opportunity to tap into my innate desire to help other people. A desire that I have held all my entire life.

As a result of attaining basic legal skills here at the Lang’ata Remand Section, I have set out to assist other inmates who are still at Pre-Trial solve their case numerous amounts of time. I wake up every morning at 4am, take a cold bath, do my morning prayers that includes saying one rosary and by 7am I am serving others with Uji (porridge). After that, I take my own breakfast or commonly known as “mukuru”. At 8.30 am, I pack my files and set out for my work station at the mess where I start attending to my inmate client.

I start by doing interviews to ascertain what happened during arrest and get them to fill out their bio data. Then after, I go on to get their charge sheet, witness statements, first reports. This is to start looking and to evaluate their case.

From this experience of being a paralegal - I have gained more control of my life, I am a better listener, I am more empathetic toward those other inmate and what we are all going through. My circumstances are that I still have cases to attend to, but this time round I am patient with myself and have hope that my life has still more meaning.

Recently, in December, I worked on two cases that brought me so much joy that for me it seemed like God had decided to grant me the ‘perfect Christmas gift’

One case involved Mary Atieno Ogenga. She was charged with being in possession of fake currency and implements, and count two was stealing contrary to section 268 (1) as read with section 281 of the penal code.

The case was hopeless in that all the exhibits were in police custody and there was no loophole in the case. I advised my client to make a plea-bargain whereby she agreed to do so, and on my advice and instructions, we came out with a plea agreement that was taken to court on the 11th of December 2017.

Later that day, Mary was released unconditionally by the sitting magistrate in Kibera Law Courts. I was overjoyed to learn of her release and since she was seven months pregnant, I couldn’t help but feel so happy that the unborn child would be now born in an environment other than prison.

The other success story was the case of Jackline Konzolo - who had been charged with her being in possession of illicit brew in large quantities. She also happened to be an alcoholic. I succeeded in her case because I simply became determined to be patient with her. At the end of the case, I advised her to change her plea to that of guilty and did her mitigation.

On the 15th of December 2017, she was released by her trial magistrate unconditionally. I was elated. This has taught me that everyone who finds themselves in prison has a chance to live a better life. I need to be committed in order to achieve more results. There are more success stories that I have in this month of January and will be submitting my final monthly report.

The one single thing that I miss the most since I came to remand prison is being in the presence of my mother - who is 90 years old this year 2018. I would leave work on Saturday afternoon and head for my upcountry home where I was born.

I would find mother cooking lunch for me - us. She would be in her last stages of mashing the “mukimo” that is to be accompanied by the chicken stew. In more weekends, I would be accompanied by my younger brother Phillip who I love very much. We would spend the whole afternoon together, and when it got late, Philip would leave for his house, leaving me and mum to spend the evening together. We would stay until midnight and then we would sleep on her bed. I would leave home for town the following day on Sunday - happy and feeling like a little child. Very happy memories of my mother and me.

Before I was arrested, I used to own a private employment agency that used to do foreign contract of service. Jobs abroad. It was accredited by the Ministry of Labour and my office was situated in Nairobi South District in a building known as Southgate Centre in South ‘B’.

I miss going for swimming, gym, church activities e.g. singing in the choir. I also miss the A.A programme of recovery, and gardening, especially my own plants and flowers that I loved so much. I miss cooking my own meals and experimenting with new recipes.

Given another lifetime - I would read law and become the best mother to my children. I miss my two grandchildren, David Kimani and Margaret Wangari. I miss my own daughter, Catherine Wanjiru.

I am looking forward to having my to remaining case files concluded and determined by the Makadara Law Courts. Case File #3783/14 is on a defence hearing on the 22nd of February 2018. The Case File #5572/14 is at the last witness hearing on the 1st of March 2018. Since August 2014, I have had 5 cases concluded and determined by the courts and thanks to my encounter with the wonderful APP team who have since given me so much support and encouragement on how to deal with the complex criminal justice system to solve my case files.

Thank you and God bless you so much.

 
 

 JIMMY MTAWA | BEST PERFORMING STUDENT

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For 12 years now, Jimmy Mtawa has worked as a prison warden at Kamiti Maximum Prison in Kenya. He has already attained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology, and has gone on to study Law.

After his first year, Jimmy emerged as the best performing student amongst 45 other students across prisons in Kenya studying law through APP’s sponsorship under the University of London (UoL) distance learning programme.

Jimmy is currently a second year student. We caught up with Jimmy and this is what he had to say.

What time does your day start at?

I report to work at 6:30am upon which I head to my senior sergeant for deployment before coming to my duty office. I then check for any pending tasks that need to be done as I await to go to class at 8:30am.

Did you always want to an officer? 

I had never imagined that I would become an officer. As a young child I had always wanted to become a politician. However, due to hardships I ended up often missing school which would later affect my performance. Coming from a poor family background this limited my options.

What has been your most memorable day at work yet?

A few years ago, I went to court with one of my really close friends who also happened to be an officer at Kamiti at the time. We were in the courtroom just chatting away when the magistrate came in and began the proceedings for the day. One of the defendants who had been assigned to my friend was called out and was nowhere to be found. The magistrate then ordered for the arrest of the officer because he did not know where the defendant had disappeared to in court. This resulted to him being locked up for 3 days after which he was suspended for a while. He is now working in another prison. However, the client has never been found.

What is the biggest misconception out there about prison wardens? 

People think that officers are illiterate. When we take our clients to hospitals and the courts people tend to assume that they cannot engage in intellectual conversations with them because they are not educated. However, this is a misconception as some of us are graduates. So it is important for senior prison officers to encourage personal development amongst officers in order to burst the myth.

How do you prioritise work and your studies? 

When I got the opportunity to study law under the UoL programme I promised myself to work very hard. For me this was an opportunity of a lifetime. Therefore I purposed to make APP proud. I had done my research and I was well aware of the threshold that a UK degree would hold for me. It is for this reason that I wake up at 4am on weekdays to study for two hours. I also study for another three hours between 2pm–5pm. It is my hope that in this academic year I will score even better results. I am also fortunate enough that my boss is aware that I’m a student and provides me with the necessary support. To attain good grades a lot of commitment is required.

What have been your highlights or lowlights? My highlight was definitely being the top student last year.

It was a very humbling experience for having been recognised by the entire APP family. This encouraged me to continue working hard.

How has studying law empowered you? 

APP has given us light to serve others using the knowledge that we have acquired. As a law student, my colleagues respect me and I’m often requested to give my views concerning various matters within the prison facility. I am also able to advise inmates who have no understanding of the law in regards to some of their cases. My family members are also very proud of the step that I have taken. They now call me a bookworm (laughs). I also have two young children who look up to me and I would like to encourage them to always aim high. I know that through attaining my LLB, I will be able to better my living standards and that of my family.

What are your future hopes and aspirations? 

I would like to join the Kenya School of Law once I finish my LLB to become an advocate of the High Court. I’m equally still hopeful that one day I will become a politician. Most of our prominent politicians in Kenya happen to be lawyers (laughs). I would also like to see this through given the fact that where I come from in Taveta (costal region of Kenya) many young people do not pursue their higher education. For every 10 students completing their high school education, you find that about only two will proceed to the university. I hope to one day change the narrative.

What drives you? 

I would like to better my life through education. Before I became an officer I was a businessman selling timber. I travelled to Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Congo seeking to better my life through business. Unfortunately, after having heavily invested a huge sum of money into the business in Congo I ended up forcefully losing the business. But I am comforted by the fact that education is something no one can take away from you. It is the best investment that anyone can ever make.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to go into crime?

As a prison warden, I live with people who have been caught on the wrong side of the law. In my time at Kamiti, I have seen many jail birds, they go out and come back to prison in no time. This often turns out to be a very bad experience for them. Many of them come back due to lack of being content with what they have. People should learn to be content because life in prison is very hard.

 

 
 

Madam Jane Kiiri |Officer in charge Lang'ata

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Madam Jane Kiiri is the current Officer in Charge at Lang’ata Women’s Prison in Kenya.

For the past 27 years, Jane has worked in the Prison Service where she has gained extensive experience having been in charge of various prison facilities.

A Pioneer

In 2013, Jane was selected as the first beneficiary of African Prisons Project Master’s Scholarship Programme for prison staff to study Education and Leadership Management at Oxford Brookes University in England. This was an opportunity she seized with both hands having been shortlisted amongst many other officers.

Despite the fact that she had to leave her immediate family behind to study abroad, Jane was not deterred. “I encourage women not to limit themselves. Many women let opportunities surpass them, worrying that their families will not be okay, I did remote parenting while I was away and was surprised that my children were actually doing fine.” says Jane. 

Education and Opportunity 

This experience broadened her mind and has since opened great opportunities for her. Studying abroad has given her the confidence to express her opinions 

without fear of contradiction from other colleagues. The exposure to a different learning system has changed her general perception towards education, giving her the desire to become a lecturer in future.

The knowledge that she acquired during her studies have also played a major role in the delivery of her work as a senior prison officer. As Officer In Charge, Jane now supports her staff as they pursue their education.

My greatest expectation is that one day, I will live to see prison staff members that are motivated and self-driven without having to use hierarchy and command,” says Jane.

Impact

In her tenure of work, she prides herself in being able to impact the life of an inmate as they reintegrate back into the society. While working at a Youth Correctional Training Centre, Jane was able to help many of the boys, with one of them successfully returning to school and going on to University.

APP will continue to supporting more prison officers like Jane through providing similar opportunities for them to develop themselves and use their newly acquired skills to bring positive change to society.