4,500 prisoners released in decongestion bid over COVID19

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BY KORIR JUMA,NAIROBI,17TH APRIL,2020-Approximately 4,500 petty offenders have been released from prison as the country’s corrections department tries to decongest facilities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Daily Nation quoted Prisons Commissioner-General Wycliffe Ogallo  who said while no one anticipated the emergence and spread of the coronavirus, all must ensure the spread is curtailed, and therefore all efforts geared towards this cause are worthwhile.

After discussions earlier in April, the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) resolved to release 4,800 prisoners serving time for petty offences and jail terms less than six months, after reviewing their files.

The NCAJ further advised the isolation of new prisoners for the required 14 days to reduce their risk of infecting others. It also called for the regulation of inmates’ movement.

Mr Ogallo said, “The process of determining who ought to be released is the responsibility of the Judiciary. We carry out what we are directed to do.”

Mr Ogallo spoke at the department’s headquarters in Nairobi, where he received a consignment of safety gear and equipment worth Sh6.1 million from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Kenya Red Cross Society for use in prisons across the country.

He said the consignment included high density boots, overalls, buckets, goggles, high-density gloves, 10 tents for setting up isolation units, face shields, sanitary towels, gloves, masks, diapers, surgical bounds and infrared thermometers.

The items will be distributed across all the country’s penitentiaries. And all the correctional centres will be given equal priority.

Mr Ogallo reported that there had been no suspected case of the disease in the country’s prisons as at April 17.

He attributed this to high standards of hygiene and regular temperature checks by use of thermo guns and thermometers for everybody at the facilities.

“The greatest [way to]containing the disease is through up-scaling hygiene standards. With the personal protective equipment provided, our medics and staff will be encouraged to work diligently,” he said.

Olivier Dubois, the ICRC Head of Regional Delegation for Kenya, Tanzania and Djibouti, advised the replication inside prisons of all protocols imposed outside them.

“The important thing to note is not so much the value and volume of items given to prisons and other correction facilities but changing the attitudes of those inside prisons to make them see the need to control the spread of the disease,” he said.

Zeinab Hussein, the Principal Secretary in the State Department for Correctional Services, earlier suspended all visits to prison lines, borstal institutions and youth corrective training centres across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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