Kirat Visits Kenya

A bit about me…

Before starting working with APP I worked within a British prison running a mentorship programme for just over 2 years. I had to learn the ways of the prison operation very quickly if I was to survive and have a successful project. Going into Kenyan prisons I was subconsciously engaged with the similarities and differences between British and Kenyan prison. Matteo and I travelled through long and bumpy terrain to Machacos, Langata and Naivasha to meet some incredibly inspiring leaders and view their prisons.

A bit about the Secondment…

The Secondment programme operates on the values of intersectional criminal justice learning and development. And simply put, what our Kenyan colleagues can learn from a wonderfully rich cross cultural experience of the British criminal justice system. But, is there anything that we should be learning from their prison systems? Hmmm…

What did I notice that was different?

Prisons are prisons. Wherever you go in the world they are pretty resourceless, unpleasant and inhumane places to be. But, whilst out in Kenya I found the prison system to be somewhat refreshing and actually quite humbling. There were two things that stood out for me when comparing to the British prison I worked in.

1. The education system

In Kenya, I saw a huge investment in both academic and vocational courses for prisoners. They may not have had all the sufficient resources to support their endeavours but that did not stop them! I saw courses ranging from construction and welding all way through to mindfulness and law degrees, some of these students were part of APP’s University of London Law programmes. It was an absolute pleasure to see them and see how passionate they were. Classes were often taught by prisoners to prisoners and I even had the pleasure of meeting the Deputy Head Teacher of the Education Department (Machakos) who was a prisoner, a mindfulness leader with APP and Inma (insert link). Of course, classes and resources were minimal but you could see the pride that oozed from people when they talked about the variety of educational and learning opportunities they had; this was not always true of the British prison system.

2. The respect and kinship between prisoners and officers

Despite many prisons in the Kenya and Uganda operating at a 300% capacity, there was a really strong link between those who shared the same physical space whatever their title. Prisoners and officers smiled together, laughed together and respected one another. There was no need to reassert power due to disrespect or underhand motives at play. Prisoners addressed officers with grace and vice versa. There was no bad language.

What now…?

Matteo Cassini (Secondment Development Manager) is heading a programme to get British prison officers engaged within Kenyan prison systems because learning can happen both ways! There is much to be learned from our counterparts just as they learn from us…

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