Dickson Munene remains in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, in Kenya, and has been sentenced to life imprisonment since 2009.
Before beginning his sentence Dickson was an Economics graduate from the University of Nairobi. During his sentence, he has completed his Master’s Degree in Business Administration, with a Major in Entrepreneurship at Kenyatta University. He was awarded an MBA on 3rd August 2017.
Dickson is now in the final year of his Law Degree, which he is studying via the University of London’s (UoL) International Programme, with the support of APP.
Dickson provides support to other inmates as a paralegal with APP, as well as teaching computer classes and writing applications for those joining colleges.We caught up with Dickson at Kamiti Maximum Prison and this is what he had to say:
What time does your typical day at work start?"My day starts at 6am, when unlocks are done in prison. I religiously do exercises and then head straight to Kamiti's documentation office where I spend the better part of my day receiving new inmates, retrieving case files, retrieving case numbers and writing submissions." Why did you choose to become a paralegal?“At the age of 24, I was already an Inspector of Police and people would ask me legal questions but all I knew was the penal code and no legal arguments. Therefore, I took this as an opportunity to enable me acquire basic legal knowledge in order to provide people with efficient answers. I needed a professional mindset.”What do you consider as successful qualities of a paralegal?“I would say research skills are very important, you would need a database of cases to build your knowledge and understanding of certain legal issues. Secondly, a paralegal should be ready to listen, some clients can be very troublesome therefore a sense of humility is paramount. You need to constantly reassure your client in order to build their confidence in you.”How many people do you see on a given day?“At the documentation office where I am stationed, I meet many people. All new inmates have to pass through this office where I immediately inform them of their right to appeal within 14 days. In addition to that, all major communication from courts is relayed through this office.”Have you ever failed to complete an assignment and how do you cope with deadlines?“I am afraid of failure. I would not take a file if I’m not confident that I would be able to work on it in good time. It’s somebody’s life, I take it seriously. I prioritize my work in such a way that I work on what is most urgent and if I’m unable to work on a file, I refer the client to any of my colleagues in the legal aid clinic.”Talk about a case where you were proud of your research skills?“My most memorable case was one which involved a 19 year old boy from a poor background. This young boy had worked as a gardener for 10 months with no pay from his employer. Upon asking for his money, his employer fixed a case on him where she was accusing him of defiling her daughter. He was then convicted to life imprisonment and brought to Kamiti Maximum Prison. When he approached me, I wrote his submissions and he was later released. I don’t know where he is today, but I hope he is somewhere doing well for himself.”What challenges do your face in your line of duty?“The biggest challenge is in follow ups. For instance, you write a letter and it ends up getting lost before reaching its intended audience. Most of the help that we need in regards to cases is outside the prison walls and the only way to get it is through writing these letters. This sometimes leads to dragging of cases which were minor issues.”What makes you happy?“Happiness comes from within, happiness comes from satisfaction. If you set achievable goals and manage your expectations then you will be happy.”What are your future plans?“I know that one day I will get out and I’m already preparing for it. After prison, I want to teach and do pro bono work. While I was in remand, I would see people get arrested and released and then in a few days they are back, I later learnt that they were petty offenders and I thought to myself, why not empower them to be sustainable people. I realized that there is a gap, it’s difficult for an ex-inmate to get a job and therefore I have partnered with a local organization to offer short entrepreneurship courses so that once they are out they can be self sustainable. I also want to push for policy changes, I am passionate about the policy approach on power of mercy. If you can influence change in policies then it changes the whole system.”
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