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The Entrepreneur:  Benjamin’s Quest for Success.

In the busy estates of Nairobi where dreams collide with the harsh realities of life, Benjamin Mutunga’s life story emerges as a beacon of hope and renewal. His journey, woven with threads of transformation and the unwavering belief in second chances, paints a portrait of triumph over adversity.

Emerging from the cocoon of confinement, Benjamin embraced the chaos of the city with an unwavering spirit and a newfound sense of purpose. Armed with the tools of his trade and a heart ablaze with ambition, he ventured into the world of bread selling.

With each loaf of bread sold, Benjamin carves a path of resilience. He wears his journey as a badge of honor, a testament to the indomitable spirit that refuses to be bound by the chains of circumstance.

Benjamin Mutunga running his business

Born in the serene side of Machakos County, Benjamin ventured into the city in pursuit of his entrepreneurial dreams in 2014. “I had found success in the business of selling milk and bread and was making up to Ksh. 4 000 sales profit on a good day. Unfortunately, my life took an unexpected turn in 2018 when I got arrested and subsequently convicted for the offense of manslaughter and sentenced to serve three years in prison,” he says. Despite the despair of incarceration, Benjamin refused to let his spirit be broken. Instead, he turned his time behind bars into an opportunity for growth and self-improvement.

Embracing the programs offered by the Kenya Prisons Service in partnership with Crime Si Poa, Benjamin focused on the entrepreneurship, spiritual, and psycho-education classes that instilled in him a newfound sense of purpose and leadership. He diligently honed these skills as he envisioned a brighter future beyond the prison confines.

Benjamin returned home upon release determined to rebuild his life and reintegrate into society. Despite facing numerous challenges, including financial setbacks and initial skepticism of the community, he remained focused.

With the support of CSP and the encouragement of fellow entrepreneurs like Walaika Brian, he embarked on the journey of resurrecting his business. However, it was not smooth sailing as the road was fraught with obstacles. From losing his hard-earned money on the way to the bank to struggling with a reduced customer base and limited resources, Benjamin faced setbacks that would have discouraged many. Yet, his unwavering determination and the support of his community propelled him forward.

For Benjamin, every sale represents more than just financial transactions, it symbolizes his resilience, his refusal to be defined by past mistakes, and his unwavering belief in the power of redemption. It is the ultimate audacity of hope.

Flavier Mwika(Prisons & Reintegration Manager) left, Benjamin Mutunga(Ex-inmate) middle, Hemstone Mugala(Psychologist) right.

Crime Si Poa (CSP) Programs Manager for Prisons and Reintegration Flavier Mwika says Benjamin’s story is not just one of personal triumph; it is a testament to the transformative potential of the program, which seeks to empower inmates with the skills, support, and resources necessary for successful reintegration into society. She calls on well-wishers to support Benjamin in his quest to expand his business to incorporate milk selling to have a sustainable income stream to meet his daily needs.

Benjamin’s journey of redemption and entrepreneurship serves as a beacon of hope for all those who have stumbled along life’s path. It reminds us that no matter how bleak the circumstances may seem, with resilience, determination, and a supportive community, the human spirit can overcome even the most daunting challenges, turning adversity into opportunity and darkness into light.

Read about Benjamin’s homecoming here: https://crimesipoa.org/it-is-never-too-late/

David Alela playing a guitar during a church service in Kisumu

David Alela’s Redemption Song. 

The pain of serving two decades behind bars for what he maintains was a wrongful conviction has not dampened his unwavering spirit for community service. Gifted with golden fingers, he softly strums beautiful chords on his guitar as he savors the sweet air of freedom. He has just come back home from cleaning up the house of a community member who has been ostracized by the community because of mental health challenges. The man was also suffering from acute jigger infestation on his feet and hands which David had just removed. 

David Alela cleaning up a man who is suffering from acute jigger infestation on his feet and hands.

As the day of his release drew near, Alela who had been going through the pre-release re-integration journey with the Crime Si Poa team led by Bilha Achieng and the Prisons chaplaincy, was at peace. A focused and determined man who decided to use his time behind bars productively, Alela can be regarded as a jack of many trades for which he is also a master. He pursued education, earning his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), after which he sharpened his legal knowledge and became a paralegal. Not content, the multi-talented David also trained as a theologian, and acquired vocational training in motor vehicle panel beating and automotive engineering.  

To prepare for his smooth reintegration upon release, David undertook the Crime Si Poa psychoeducation training, graduating in 2022 with a certificate. 

David Alela with Rodgers kale the senior superintendent of prison with inmates from Kisumu Maximum Prison

David ’s homecoming was a celebration of love that could have easily been mistaken for a political homecoming. A model inmate, Alela was  Neighbors, relatives, and well-wishers lined up along the road leading to his home in song and dance, eagerly awaiting his arrival where three different churches and the area Chief had gathered to welcome him. 

Speeches from family members and friends were clear on one thing; Alela’s innocence, insisting that he had been wrongfully convicted. His 74-year-old mother, overcome with joy, embraced him tightly, as she looked into his eyes with a smile. She expressed her gratitude to Crime Si Poa and the partnered church: Deliverance Church, acknowledging their support ‘during the dark days’ 

A man who lets the faith he professes lead his actions, Alela has wasted no time in sharing his gift with the world. He plays the guitar in church, is using his talent to uplift congregations and inspire hope as he speaks on redemption, forgiveness, and the promise of a new beginning. 

 What’s more, he is quickly assimilating in the Crime Si Poa team in Western Kenya with planned activities in prisons, schools and the community. 

Alela’s impact has extended far beyond the walls of the church. Recognizing the healing power of psychoeducation, he has become deeply involved in community outreach programs, volunteering his time to mentor at-risk youth on alcohol, drugs and substance abuse, offering guidance, support, and hope to those who needed it most. 

Today, Alela’s guitar serves as more than just an instrument—it’s a symbol of hope, resilience, and the enduring power of the human spirit to rise above adversity, inspiring others to believe in the possibility of second chances and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. 

His journey from incarceration to community impact is a testament to the transformative potential that lies within each of us, waiting to be unlocked and shared with the world. 

Visit https://crimesipoa.org/prison-and-aftercare-program-phoenix/ to support our Prisons and Re-integration program 

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Digital Skills Transforming Lives in Kajiado 

Youth unemployment is a critical issue that affects countless young people worldwide. In Kenya, the largest population of Kenyans falls under the youth bracket (18-35) at 75 percent according to the 2019 population census. 

Unemployment rates among the youth are equally high given that more than one million graduates annually continue to add to the number of unemployed. It is a multifaceted problem with far-reaching consequences, not only for the affected individuals but also for society and the economy as a whole

This is a situation that Omar Hawa got caught up in 2022 when she cleared her form four. “ I wanted to study clinical medicine at Kenya Medica Training College (KMTC) but my grade (C-) limited me. My mother’s limited resources also contributed a great deal. Coming from a single-parent family made it tough for me,” says Hawa. 

Being the second born in a family of three, Hawa says her elder brother had successfully finished college but had not secured any meaningful employment, equally making him dependent on their mother even as their younger sister was still in school. 

Hawa says she was forced to stay at home a whole year, with the hope that she could get a sponsor to take her to college. “I had to shed off my desire to pursue medicine and accept anything that would come my way,” she adds 

One day, as Hawa was wondering through Kajiado town where she resides, she overheard a conversation about an organization enrolling young people in a digital livelihood program, a course aimed at training them in various skills related to the digital world such as typing, data entry, computer literacy, and packages. It was an opportunity for the underprivileged youth to acquire marketable skills and secure decent jobs. 

Hawa’s eyes lit up with hope. She knew that this might be her chance to build a better future for herself and her family. Without wasting any time, she rushed home to share the news with her mother. Despite her initial skepticism, the mother recognized her determination and agreed to let her enroll in the program. 

The course was intense and challenging but was relentless in her pursuit of knowledge. She attended classes diligently, often staying up late to grasp complex concepts. She mastered the art of customer service, developing excellent communication and problem-solving skills. 

After two months elapsed, Hawa among other 38 students graduated from the Digital Livelihood Program. She was proud of her achievement and couldn’t wait to apply her newfound skills.  

Omar Hawa receiving her certificate from our Programs manager

“Am happy that by the time of graduation, I had secured employment as a receptionist in an organization based in Karen. As a side hustle, I now also type documents for people, do online writing, and apply for Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Pins for those who do know how to do it. This gives me extra cash to support my family, she excitedly says.  

Digital Livelihood Project Officer at Crime Si Poa Ms. Phanice Kimutai says there is a great need to prepare the youth with digital skills as the world is moving towards digitalization. This, she says, helps them become innovative and stop relying on white-collar jobs. She adds that the program also encourages youth to volunteer in advocating against criminal behavior in their respective regions with the greatest motivation being to reach the entire community with anticrime messages.  

“This is the 5th cohort we are training and graduating. So far, we have reached 135 youths in Kajiado county. As we equip them with digital livelihood skills, we are also working with them as volunteers to campaign against crime and sensitize the community on dangers, “she adds.  

Speaking during the graduation ceremony, Director, of Youth Governance in Action Mr. Eugine Simiyu applauded Crime Si Poa’s initiative terming it a positive response towards embracing technology. 

Simiyu added that ICT offers an exciting and diverse range of career opportunities for youth, a chance to be at the forefront of innovation, financial rewards, and the ability to make a meaningful impact in a rapidly changing world. “For young individuals interested in technology and willing to embrace lifelong learning, venturing into ICT can be a wise and fulfilling choice as it offers self-employment, exposes one to the global world in the comfort of their homes, and offers e-economic transformation. 

Students showing off their awarded certficates
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Reclaiming Hope Behind Prison Walls 

In the heart of a bustling Kiambu county, sits Kamiti Medium Prison, where the clanging of bars and the murmur of inmates are an everyday reality. A young man named *Duncan (not his real name) finds himself incarcerated for a crime that still baffles him to date. 

In 2016, as a bright and ambitious software engineering student at one of the leading universities in the country, Duncan had an enthusiasm for learning and dreams of a brighter future.  At only 22, he had faced many hardships throughout his life but remained determined to break free from the cycle of poverty that had plagued his family for generations. His path to success seemed clear as he diligently attended college, but circumstances took a sudden turn when he got involved in a relationship with a minor. 

“I got into a relationship with a form two student within my neighborhood. She had tricked me that she was of age and even from the look of her physical appearance, I was so convinced that she was indeed a grownup. Hell broke loose when her family members found out about our relationship and I was accused of defilement,” he sadly confesses  

Duncan was matched by neighbours to the police station where the parents reported the matter. The young man ended up at Kamiti maximum prison for a 15-year jail term but was later transferred to Kamiti Medium where he will stay till 2026.  According to Kenya’s sexual offences Act, defilement carries a maximum sentence of life. 

Duncan says his life took a dramatic turn. “The environment was new to me, I felt incredibly lonely. I struggled to bond with fellow inmates. My days were marked by routine, regret, and a gnawing sense of wasted potential. I spent many nights in the cell, reflecting on the choices that had brought me to this point. The realization that I had dropped out of university, which had once been my dream, made me question the value of my existence in this world.’’ I sank into depression, resorted to self-harm, faking sickness and consuming a few medications that came my way in a bid to commit suicide.  

 One fateful day, an announcement was made about an organization called Crime Si Poa seeking volunteers to join a psychosocial support class. It was a program aimed at helping inmates find a path to mental healing and coping mechanisms. For Duncan the opportunity to make amends with himself in some small way resonated deeply. 

Without hesitation, he applied to be part of the sessions. His sincerity and commitment to change were evident to the organization, and he was accepted into the program. The journey was arduous, involving group sessions, but Duncan’s determination saw him get to love the whole program. 

Duncan was able to share his feelings and experiences with others who had faced similar struggles. This sense of camaraderie helped him feel less isolated and alone in his journey to overcome depression. 

With time and the support, he received from the sessions, Duncan’s perspective on life began to change. He no longer saw prison as the end of his dreams but as a temporary setback on his path to success. He realized that he still had the power to shape his future, even from within the confines of his cell. 

In the end, Duncan learned that while circumstances had led him to prison, it was the support and guidance he received within those walls that gave him the strength to overcome his depression and regain hope to pursue his dreams once his sentence comes to an end. 

Crime Si Poa, Wellness officer Claire Kwamboka, emphasizes the organization’s commitment to equipping inmates with psychological knowledge. “Many inmates endure severe stress due to personal circumstances, community issues back at home, legal battles, and appeals.  The primary goal of these programs is to rehabilitate inmates and address the underlying issues that may have led to their criminal behavior. By providing psychosocial support, inmates can develop the skills and coping mechanisms needed to reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens,” she says 

Claire adds that inmates often lack healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and adversity. Psychosocial programs teach them how to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts, and make better decisions, which are essential life skills. 

Currently Crime Si Poa is offering psychoeducation to 5 prisons in Kenya including Kisumu Maximum Prison, Nairobi West Prison, Nakuru men, Kibos Prison and Kakamega Women, reaching a total of 329 inmates in 2023. 

Early this year, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) launched a report that showed that two-thirds of prisoners on death row in Kenya are battling physical and mental health challenges. 

The report, titled “Living with a Death Sentence in Kenya: Prisoners’ Experiences of Crime, Punishment and Death Row,” found that 67 percent of inmates sentenced to death over robbery with violence and murder said their physical health had suffered compared to those whose death sentences had been commuted and who were now serving a life sentence which was at 63.

Hemstone Mugala, a psychologist conducting group therapy at Kamiti Medium Prison, talks of the challenges faced by inmates who struggle to adapt to prison life, adding that accepting their confinement becomes an arduous process, often leading to unproductivity and mental illnesses. 

‘’ Many inmates in prisons experience tremendous stress, finding it difficult to accept their status. That’s why they need continuous therapy to help them reevaluate their situation and regain psychological stability, preventing them from harming themselves ‘’Says Hemstone. 

Currently, a group of 22 inmates, including Duncan, is undergoing a year-long psychoeducation program offered by Crime Si Poa. Topics taught include Stress and stress management, communication skills, HIV and AIDS, self-awareness, assertiveness, resilience, friendship and relationship, conflict and conflict resolution, drug and substance abuse, loss and grief. Upon completion, they will receive certificates, enabling them to assist fellow inmates grappling with mental health issues.  

Duncan is now finding solace and knowledge in these training sessions, gaining insights into psychological matters while serving his sentence. He is hopeful to come out strong and also be mentor others 

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Healing Hearts: A Psychologist’s Lifesaving Journey

In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic’s mental exhaustion, Rebecah, a certified counselling psychologist from University of Nairobi, faced a profound challenge that tested both her training and compassion.

“I received information that a friend, grappling with a breast cancer diagnosis had contemplated suicide. The excruciating pain, the uncertainty of her prognosis, and the loss of her once-vibrant life had taken a heavy toll on her mental health. She felt like she had no control over her body or her life, and this hopelessness had led her to consider ending her suffering on her own terms,” she says.

After learning about her friend’s thoughts of suicide, Rebeca approached her with kindness and empathy. She began a series of one-on-one counseling sessions, creating a safe and nonjudgmental space for her to express her fears, frustrations, and feelings of hopelessness. She listened attentively, allowing the friend to share her innermost thoughts.

Rebeca on empowerment mission for young girls in Mathari

Throughout their sessions, Rebeca used a combination of therapeutic techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness exercises, to help her friend manage her emotional distress. They worked on reframing negative thoughts, coping with the physical pain, and finding ways to regain a sense of control and purpose in her life, including seeking continuous treatment.

The bond between Rebeca and her had become incredibly strong, as they journeyed together through the depths of despair and emerged on the other side, where the will to live had triumphed over the desire to end her suffering. Rebeca’s unwavering support and therapeutic expertise had not only saved a friend’s life but had given her a reason to keep fighting, to cherish every day, and to find beauty even in the midst of illness.

Months later, as the pandemic waned, she gradually began to shift, seeing her life through a different lens and focusing on moments of joy and gratitude. She not only survived but thrived. Her cancer was conquered, underscoring the power of empathy and support even in the darkest of times. She is proud to have played a role in offering hope and healing to someone facing life-altering diagnoses, highlighting the lifeline that understanding and support can provide in the darkest hours.

This month being breast cancer awareness month, with theme “no one should face breast cancer alone’ World Health Organization states that 90 percent of early breast cancers are curable with treatments and self care. In 2022, Kenya’s Ministry of Health ranked breast cancer second in all deaths caused by cancer. In a statement the ministry said breast cancer records over three thousand deaths, noting that about seven women succumb to breast cancer daily in the country.

“Breast cancer accounts for over 3,107 deaths making it the second leading cause of all cancer deaths in the country. 7 women die every day in Kenya as a result of breast cancer,” the statement from the ministry stated.

Rebecca says the statistics can be reduced by giving proper care including mental health care to survivors. She also advocates for women going for screening to determine their status early enough.

Rebeca at YCTC a juvinile correctional service to offer mental support to them

But the journey to empathizing with people’s situations has not come easy. Rebeca says her first dream was to be a doctor as she grew up passionately helping out people with various medical conditions.Top of Form.

“After clearing my primary level, I joined Itoleka Girls secondary in Kitui where I excelled and got admission at University of Nairobi. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I got a letter to study psychology at the same institution. This was heartbreaking but I took it positively and, in the process, learnt that it actually had a mental health factor. I was happy that I would eventually provide health solutions to people,” she says.

After he completion, Rebecca secured a 6 months internship at a local mental health hospital in Nairobi where she encountered different cases, diligently working under the direction of professional doctors to help the survivors. At the end of her internship, she chose to work as a volunteer at Crime Si Poa (CSP), working under the prisons and reintegration programme, offering counselling sessions to inmates. It was while volunteering at CSP that she encountered her friend’s case.

Currently, Rebeca also provides counselling services to children under the community program at CSP. She visits schools and communities, offering mentorship to ensure that children are raised with moral values.Her determination and resilience in her field led us to honor her on this Mashujaa Day.

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Hope in the Midst of Silent Struggles

By Levis Jilani 

Time seems to stretch endlessly within the cold and unforgiving prison cell walls where Charles* (not his real name) has spent nearly 15 years of his life. The walls seem to close in on him with each passing day. He was imprisoned for a crime he insists he never committed; defilement.  Communication was a luxury that Charles lost the moment he stepped into prison. No phones, no internet, no letters. His heart ached for his wife and children. He often wondered how they were coping without him. Did they have enough to eat? Were his children going to school? How were they managing to pay bills?  Same routine days on end made life in prison monotonous. Charles had made a few friends among the inmates, but he found solace in the corners of his mind. Bitterness often took a toll on him, and he felt that the people who had falsely accused him did not deserve anything better. He slowly sunk into depression  

However, Charles’ hopes got rekindled with time. Determination to reconnect with his family after his incarceration grew stronger. He started attending a spiritual program within the prison, and soon realized that the program went beyond the spiritual and delved into skills development and psycho education. “I needed this so badly. So much was going on in my mind and I was sinking into depression, I wanted revenge when I got out. I am thankful that Crime Si Poa came in good time to offer us psychosocial support,” says Charles. 

 Michael* (also not his real name,)  says he had been influenced by peer pressure into a life of drug addiction. His life took a turn after being sentenced as he could not access the drugs in the prison, and this made him sink into depression.  During the psychoeducation sessions, he was counselled on anger management, conflict resolution and drugs and substance abuse. “These sessions have really helped me. I remain sober, and on my recovery journey,” he says.  

These are just a few cases of inmates suffering from mental health challenges, requiring urgent help. Data from 2020 International Journal of Health Sciences and Research states that 63.2 percent of inmates in Kenya suffer from a range of mental disorders caused by confinement related stress, long prison sentence, delays in determination of appeals, frustration due to failure of appeal terms and bad reports from home such as one’s family suffering. Charles says that inmates face many challenges which could impact on them negatively. “This place can be a brooding place of survival criminal mindsets because we get different characters with different motives. Some are burdened by poverty and even if released, will commit a crime to return to prison where food and other basic needs are provided by the government. Such people need help,” he says. 

He calls for more sensitization, skills development, and psychosocial support programs to help stop recidivism. “Since I joined the church ministry, I have developed leadership skills and began mentoring others. I am glad that at the end of my sentence, I will be able to positively impact lives with the knowledge I have.”  During a psychoeducation session organized by Crime Si Poa at the correctional facility, Prison Corporal Mary Makena, a Pastor at Nairobi West Prison emphasizes that the shift from familiar environments to incarceration is a significant contributor to the mental health struggles faced by inmates.  

“Some were accustomed to good meals, comfortable sleep, and freedom of movement. However, upon conviction, everything changes drastically, making it difficult for them to accept and adapt.’’ said Mary, adding that inmates engaged in psychoeducation and spiritual programs within the prison have benefitted mentally “As a patron, I have interacted with many beneficiaries of the program. They share their struggles, and indeed, they go through tough times. However, things are changing for the better due to the weekly transformative spiritual and psychoeducation sessions that have become integral in their lives .” Mary explains. 

Hemstone Mugala, a consultant psychologist at Crime Si Poa, emphasizes the constant need for therapy among inmates. Some find it challenging opening up, necessitating one-on-one daily counseling session. This approach has yielded positive outcomes, as many are now comfortable sharing their concerns with prison officers.” Charles, who looks forward to his release in December, says he anticipates reuniting with his family in Kisii . As a teacher by profession, I aspire to utilize the knowledge gained from the program to sensitize young people in my community and also offer psychosocial support to those who may going through various life challenges,” he concludes. 

To support our mental wellness program in prisons, click DONATE 

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Shadows of Innocence: A Journey Through the Backstreets.

It was on a Wednesday morning as the sun began its ascent over the horizon, casting a warm, golden glow that painted the sky in hues of orange and pink, I found myself on a journey into the heart of a backstreet joint of Majengo area in Githurai, Nairobi County.

I had heard whispers of its existence and activities after one of our partners from Community Pop John, Simone Ceciliani, gave me a chilling brief, a place where the vulnerable of society met and conducted their businesses in secrecy.

As Simione and I headed to ‘Kije’ place locally branded, the narrow pathway was dimly lit, and the air was thick with loud music from all directions. The tales of forgotten dreams and desperations were evident as we encountered an area of people living in the middle of a pub zone with commercial sex workers queuing at each entrance waiting for clients. Open sewer lines welcomed us as we put our body muscles to practice through the ‘hop, skip and jump’ motion. A mixed untold smell filled the air with children running around oblivious of the hazardous situation surrounding them.

My heart ached as I observed a group of young individuals huddled in a dimly lit corner. Their faces were etched with weariness, their eyes reflecting a myriad of emotions – pain, numbness, and a longing for escape. Despite the sorry state, the young men welcomed us as we engaged them in a conversation on the consequences of engaging in criminal activities and drug abuse.

“Life is so tough, some of us here have families but no jobs. Most of us dropped out of school because of poverty in our homes. We have been unable to secure anything meaningful. We don’t engage in stealing because we want to. If it were you, would you let your child sleep hungry when you can get it from someone else?” one of them posed. Well, I took time to digest that but at the same time did not want to judge him.

As our session in that particular place came to an end, and as we moved to the next street, we were signaled to pass by a base that was bushy and with houses built with iron sheets that were brownish in color, from a distance we could see smoke, but we were not aware what was happening. When we got close to the ratchet house, we were welcomed by some young men who were using drugs.

The room was fully packed with almost 40 young men between the ages of 20 to 30 years who were freely smoking Madibi (cocaine) as it is locally referred to. They would fill the powdered stuff into aluminum foil tubes and sniff it to the end. We could tell there was more than cocaine, they equally chewed khat and smoked cigarettes and bhang. The room also serves as a sleeping den during night hours as there was evidence of torn pieces of mattresses scattered all over

The same script of lack of employment and using drugs as an escape route showered our ears. They engage in all sorts of criminal activities to get money which they use to buy food for their families as well as restock their drugs.

The saddest part was the presence of a 5-year-old in the room. His innocence was snatched away too soon by the harsh reality of this environment. His fragile frame was a stark reminder that the destructive forces of substance abuse spared no one. The boy was placed next to a man sniffing “madibi” and releasing all the smoke in the atmosphere. The mother to the boy was idling around there looking shaggy with a piece of cloth covering her mouth while saliva flowed freely. She wore torn clothes, looked confused and sleepy, and could not utter a single word

As we continued with the engagement, giving them our assurance that we were harmless, stories of broken families, shattered dreams, and a sense of hopelessness that had driven them to the edge started coming out. The substances they sought solace in were a temporary escape from a world that had failed to provide them with alternatives.

As they spoke, it became evident that this backstreet had become a refuge for these young souls, a place where they found company amidst their shared struggles. Their tales revealed the systemic issues that had pushed them to this point – lack of access to education, limited job opportunities, and the absence of positive role models. It was a cycle that seemed impossible to break.

Yet, amid the darkness, glimmers of hope emerged. Some of these young individuals spoke about their dreams, their aspirations that had been buried but not forgotten. They yearned for a way out, for a chance to rewrite their stories. It was a poignant reminder that beneath the surface of despair, there were still sparks of resilience and determination.

The report by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Drugs (Nacada) released in May this year states that children as young as six years old are now abusing drugs, something that should be worrying the whole country. It is evident that many children have become passive smokers after being exposed by their guardians. The truth is that they eventually get addicted.

After a whole day of engagement leaving the backstreet, I carried their stories with me. They were stories of pain, yes, but also stories of strength and potential. The journey opened my eyes to the urgency of addressing the root causes of youth crime and substance abuse and providing support, opportunities, and a renewed sense of purpose.

My journey to the backstreet is a testament to the fact that even in the most challenging environments, there is an inherent desire for change. It is a reminder that behind the statistics and the stereotypes, there are real lives with real dreams. As I walked away from that backstreet, I vowed to amplify their voices and work towards a future where no child’s innocence is lost to the shadows of substance abuse. I however need partners on board to achieve this and save the future generation.

For a drug-free society, change begins with you, will you be able to be the voice to the voiceless by speaking and spreading informative messages to advocate against crime and drug abuse in your area?

My parting shot; The best way to predict the future is to create it together. – Joe Echevarria

Cynthia Kawira

NO Time For Excuses – Cynthia’s Story.

In the heart of the bustling city of Nairobi, where everybody migrates to look for opportunities, Cynthia Kawira has been hopeful of gaining meaningful employment having graduated from The Cooperative University of Kenya as a social worker in 2022. 

As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, Cynthia’s optimism began to wane. The job applications she sent out seemed to disappear into an abyss, and the few interviews she managed to secure ended with polite rejections. 

She is among the growing youthful generation brimming with aspirations and ambitions but facing the unyielding tide of youth unemployment. She however did not get discouraged and decided to take up volunteer work to enhance her skills 

“I took up the paralegal training offered by Crime Si Poa so that I can provide legal awareness to my community members rather than just sitting idle. I am now volunteering with the organization, conducting youth empowerment programs in Kajiado County; educating them on access to justice, crime, drugs and substance abuse, and environmental conservation. I look forward to specializing in counseling issues in legal law, emotional and psychological matters,” she says. 

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report released early this year, the number of Kenyans without jobs increased to more than 2.97 million in the last quarter of 2022 from 2.89 million in the previous quarter, underscoring the labor market woes in the wake of elevated inflation and reduced activity in the dominant agricultural sector. The report states that more than half of the numbers are youthful population, underlining the growing crisis of youth unemployment in the country. 

Speaking on Prime Time TV47 to commemorate this year’s International Day of Youth with the theme; Green Skills for Youth, towards a sustainable world, Cynthia underscored the fact that as much as colleges and universities were releasing many graduates in the job market, few are able to secure opportunities, and most end up in casual jobs. 

“Most youths find it hard to accept that they are unemployed after studying hard and graduating, hence feel uncomfortable to work in areas not in their line of career. I, however, implore them to take up the jobs to develop their skills because the job market requires different skill sets; you never know where you may land. It also gives you an opportunity to learn leadership skills,” she said during the show 

Cynthia, however, called on the government to review the education curriculum so that it is skills-based and promotes entrepreneurship rather than focusing only on passing exams. This, she said, would help in addressing the issue of youth unemployment.  

At the same time, Crime Si Poa Executive Director, Mr. Peter Ouko, underscored the fact that youth need not consider skills acquired in technical studies at the polytechnics and vocational centers as inferior to what others learn in university. He encouraged them to take up the courses as the demand for technical jobs was high worldwide. He further called on the government to be consistent in youth-centric programs as lack of opportunities is what forces many youths into crime. 

Pete and Cynthia during the show

Having founded Crime Si Poa while in prison following a wrongful conviction, Peter said that 75 % of inmates belong to the youth bracket with some having been wrongfully convicted. “Crime Si Poa started through sensitization against crime from prison and we used our networks outside to reach out to the youth,” he added. 

Noting that there is a need to create alternatives to address the issue of unemployment, he called on the government to simplify the process of the acquisition of passports so that many youths can seek and access opportunities in other countries. 

Click this link to follow the complete interview: LIVE ||TV47 WEEKEND EDITION || TO THE POINT 

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A day out with Top Prisons Brass. 

By L.Museka and F.Mwika 

According to the Kenya Prisons Service, the total number of persons committed to prison has risen to almost 60,000 inmates against the inbuilt capacity of about 30,000 inmates. 56 percent of this population is of remand inmates awaiting trials. 

Speaking during her inaugural visit to Correctional facilities in Kisumu after her appointment, Principal Secretary, State Department for Correctional Services, Ms. Salome Beacco said that the government was working in partnership with the judiciary and development partners to explore ways of decongesting the prisons to ensure the inmates have a dignified life. The various methods include alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, fast tracking of cases, community service orders, and the presidential prerogative on the power of mercy. 

She congratulated all newly promoted officers and noted that the promotions had improved staff morale and motivation to service. She further reiterated the department’s commitment to fighting climate change, noting that they have planned to put 20% of prison land under tree cover within the next 5 years.  

The Principal Secretary during a tree planting session during her visit at the Kisumu Command.

While donating blankets and hygiene packs to the adult inmates as well as baby clothes for children who are with their mothers at the Kisumu Women’s Prison, Ms. Beacco acknowledged Crime Si Poa’s donation of cleaning detergents and tissue papers to all the 4,000 inmates in the Kisumu Command. The PS called on other stakeholders and partners to come on board to support the department. Crime Si Poa has, in partnership with the Kenya Prisons Service, been undertaking reformation and transformation of persons in conflict with the law through tailored mentorship, entrepreneurship psychoeducation, and spiritual programs. Besides these programs, Crime Si Poa offers paralegal training for both staff and inmates to enable them to address issues related to trials, appeals, and justice more effectively. 

Speaking at the event, the Commissioner General of the Kenya Prisons Service, Brigadier (Rtd) John Warioba who was accompanying the PS, called on inmates to maintain a high degree of discipline and take advantage of the training and technical courses offered for free in the prisons. He reiterated that these skills would enhance their marketability in the job market upon release.  

CSP Team with the Permanent Secretary posing for a photo

In his speech, Crime Si Poa Executive Director Mr. Pete Ouko reiterated that the organization will continue partnering with the department to impact the lives of those in conflict with the law. He further said that Crime Si Poa is purposed to set up a digital skills lab at the Kisumu Medium Prison to build the employability skills of the inmates for seamless reintegration upon release. Crime Si Poa will also initiate paralegal training for inmates and staff at both the Kisumu Women’s Prison as well as the main prison. 

Mutunga is welcomed by family members after his arrival at home

It is Never Too Late.

Stepping out from Nairobi West Prison into the limelight, Benjamin Mutunga is struck by the overwhelming number of people waiting to receive him. The long drive home soon begins and he marvels at the Nairobi Expressway that was built when he was away from home.

The city soon fades behind and gives way to the vast Kapiti plains. After two hours, Benjamin arrives in his neighborhood and everyone, from the local security representatives to church leaders, seems to be walking quickly with joyous faces as they receive him at his village in Muthengei, Machakos County.

Though looking confused on their expectations, he seems excited to be finally back home.

In June 2023, Benjamin was released from prison after serving a six years sentence. What awaited him was not just a reunion with loved ones, but also an outpouring of support from his community. Accompanied by three chaplains from the Nairobi West Prison, Crime Si Poa Wellness Officer Ms. Claire Kwamboka, and Programmes lead Ms. Flavier Mwika, Benjamin lets a deep and joyful sound rise from his soul.

Upon conviction, Benjamin never imagined that he would regain freedom. “I thought about my family, my community, and my business and wondered how I got myself into such a place. I was so devastated, lost hope and sometimes I thought my end had come. However, I came to learn that prison was not a detention place, but a correctional facility, which had many opportunities to help one reform. This is how I got introduced to Crime Si Poa, a youth-centered organization that educates and empowers young people to build ownership around safety, justice, and socio-economic issues. I am glad that they not only target young people but also the older generation,” he excitedly says.

Flavier Mwika says some of the opportunities Crime Si Poa offers to inmates include training them to be paralegals so that they can support other inmates and the community to understand the law and access justice. “We also offer spiritual guidance and psycho-education as many inmates go through mental health challenges during their incarceration, with research showing high levels of depression and anxiety among inmates. “Detention does not derogate the rights and fundamental freedoms all human beings are entitled to,” says Flavier.

Mutunga posing with CSP staff Flavier(left) and Claire(right)

Benjamin actively participated in the psychoeducation classes that were very instrumental in helping him deal with anger, develop resilience and self-acceptance. Prior to his conviction, he had been involved in drugs and substance use. “The sensitization forums in the prison have really been instrumental in helping me stop using drugs. I have also learned to let go and ask for forgiveness following my actions that cost my freedom. I felt equally guilty and pained when my daughter passed away during my incarceration. I thank Lavington Vineyard church for helping me with spiritual guidance,” says Benjamin.