My life Encounters 1
My Experience in a Kenyan Remand Prison
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I found myself in an awkward position, which was in a remand jail. This was after spending some weeks in the police custody.
After being counted and placed in our respective cells, I was welcomed by what I can call hooligans. Hooligans, because the way they welcomed me was not humane at all. If you come across such people, you may fail to understand what part of the world they hail from. In fact they don’t even bother the fact that they are in jail.
They ransacked my pockets and every part of my body making sure that I had no money or anything valuable with me, they took 200 shillings I had hidden inside my shoes which were given by my brother for “emergency,” my expensive shoes and watch were also taken by them. I became much oppressed, if not depressed.
Once in my respective cell, I was given instructions by one in charge of the cell and his “board” the “board” or “cell government” as it was known consisted of one in charge of the cell, his assistant, and the house sergeant, those being people who make sure that order is maintained in the house, and also the elder, that is one who solves disputes in the cell. The set of instructions were poured in this way. “Yes Mr. Sila how are you? How is ” raia”?(raia is a kiswahili word for outside the jail) Welcome to the hell on earth. You have finally reached here and you will have to stay here whether you like it or not, so as we are the “government” here we have to inform you on how we live so that you are conversant with the rules and regulations”!
As you can see, the cell is too full for you to get sleeping space. But if you can part with something for these elders, we will look for you a good place to sleep, the place depending on the weight of your pockets, we can also organize for you to get better meal for a fee, but if you have nothing, you will have to suffer my friend. At this juncture I became deep in thought for a while for I was psychological challenged. Challenged because I had known all along that money was forbidden element in prison, how come that this thugs are asking me for money when they know that money is not allowed in prison?
“Hey’ young man what are you thinking instead of answering us? Are you praying for the doors to open like Paul and Sila?, it can never happen here my friend, just give us your point, do you have the money?” I said no. then you will have to sleep on “pipeline” Pipeline being a dreaded place because apart from being overcrowded with people from the street and thugs, they are no blankets to cover one, there is also a lot of lice and smelly out more than in a mortuary. I spent almost two weeks with no sleep because I was not used to such places. I had also to depend on prison food since I had no money to buy special food. The food itself being not fit for human consumption. I am sure if the Kenyan bureau of standards were allowed to test the food they would immediately outlaw its consumption. Unless they are bribed.
The morning meal consisted of a cup of porridge with or without sugar, I had heard that they were supposed to put sugar in it daily but I don’t know where they took it some days, what annoyed me most was that depending on which guard was on duty, the porridge can be added water after much being sold to those moneyed remandees,(People in a remand jail) so you will have to take porridge which had been put dirty cold water in it. Lunch time comes at around 9.00am, usually consisting of half cooked maize meal mixed with the soup of kales; evening meal is 2.00pm which is usually half cooked maize meal and the soup of beans, if you want the real meal you will have to part with 30shillings per meal. This you can give to the guard or the intermediary mostly being a trustee with the guards.
In prison is where you will find all manner of drugs and narcotics, where they come from or who brings them is what baffles me up to this day. There is bang, heroine, attain, cigars, brews, e.t.c.
I had difficult time in prison since I had no relative in Nairobi who could come and support me in any way, either emotionally, physically, psychologically, logically, or whatever. And since almost everything in prison involved money, I had became hopeless in life, imagine even basking in the sun, one had to bribe the warders, Even for those gadgets presumed to be illegal in prison such as mobile phones and practicing illegal businesses could have their way through bribe. If Nairobi remand prison should be our context, then corruption is highly rampant in our Kenyan prisons.
When I was in a remand prison I also learned that corruption extended to the courts, courts such as Makadara, Kibera, Limuru and others were highly corrupt, except in a few cases, justice depended on ones pockets or his peoples pockets. Cases of inmate's people visiting prosecutors or magistrates’ to settle the cases were rife. That was the time I learned that justice in Kenyan courts depends on ones pocket.