Launch 1080 Double Decker Beds to all Women Prison Facilities in Kenya
Globally, more than half a million women and girls are in prison serving a sentence following conviction, or awaiting trial and therefore presumed innocent. Criminal justice systems routinely overlook the specific needs of these women and girls, who represent an estimated 29% of national prison populations. Faraja Foundation observing the United Nations Bangkok Rules has been addressing some of these needs through partnership with the Kenya Prisons service and other like-minded organisations and institutions.
Women inmates in Kenya are vulnerable as they find themselves in a system built principally for men. Historically, prisons and prison regimes have almost invariably been designed for the majority male prison population; from architecture of prisons to security procedures, to healthcare, family contact, work and training.
Incarcerated mothers and children accompanying their mothers in prison live in prison under very difficult circumstances. In as much as we agree that prison is not a hotel, it’s meant to provide some means of rehabilitation for its offenders. Often, not only are conditions within the facilities abjectly below minimum standards, they are also destructive. A number of them do not have beds in their various wards. For many years, the medical personnel have had a hard time containing respiratory infections among inmates and children who sleep on cold hard floors with their mothers.
Treating women offenders in the same way as men does not achieve gender equity. The circumstances in which women commit criminal offences are different from men. A considerable proportion of women offenders are in prison as a direct or indirect result of multiple layers of discrimination and deprivation. Women mainly commit petty crimes closely linked to poverty, such as theft, fraud and drug related offences. Only a small minority of women are convicted of violent offences, and a large majority of them have been victims of violence themselves.
Rationale for the provision of beds and support with day care centres/facilities in women prisons in the country
The Kenyan law allows toddlers to accompany their incarcerated mothers in prison up to the age of four. With over 30 female prisons in the country, inmates are subjected to severe overcrowding, insufficient food supply where mothers have had to share their portions with their children, poor sanitary conditions inadequate water supply and bedding.
An interview with select female prisoners in Kenya, informed that having beds would improve their sleeping conditions, reduce overcrowding by use of double-decker beds, protect them with their children from cold and cold related illnesses, respiratory diseases and eventually enable them cope and reduce their levels of stress as they undertake their correctional programs within the correctional facilities.
Provision of beds in these women prisons will not only increase the number of sleeping places and free the floor space which the women can use for leisure activities and physical exercises, it will also reduce infections, stress levels and increasing coping mechanisms among inmates where overcrowding is concerned.
Faraja Foundation is keen in observing the crucial rule of protecting the rights of women offenders and prisoners, explicitly addressing the different needs that incarcerated mothers with their children have and the different situations they come from. Out of the 34 women prisons in the country only 4 of them have beds and Faraja Foundation through Fr. Peter Meienberg seeks to provide beds in the remaining 30 women prisons.
Ordinarily as children grow, we at Faraja Foundation are aware that they need to have an opportunity to explore and develop new skills and interdependence. They also need to learn that certain behaviors are unacceptable and they are responsible for their actions. Children should also be enabled to learn rules in an environment where guidance and discipline that is fair and consistent is offered in a loving environment. This is a great social development challenge for children growing up in Prison with their incarcerated mothers as they miss out on such opportunities, thus, we have so far been able to build or renovate about 5-day care centres for children with their mothers in prison. We have one request already to support with a day care at Kitale Women Prison because the one they used to have was turned into a quarantine room due to COVID 19. At the annexure to this concept is the request and a tentative budget for consideration if funds would be available. We further propose to do at least 3-day care centres in 2021 in the prisons we more than 20 children.
Impact of the proposed project of beds and day care centres/facilities in the women prisons in Kenya.
- Health and dignity of the women and children greatly improved
- Children will have the opportunity to be children despite finding themselves in the prisons with their mothers
- The partnership between Faraja Foundation and the Kenya Prisons Service will continue flourishing