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Providing Psycho-Social Support in Kenya Prisons

When Crime Si Poa kicked off the mental health program early this year at the Kisumu Maximum Prison the reception was quite warm, with little hesitation from inmates to open up during the sessions. Inmates, however, became more interactive and found it easier to air their issues with time. 

According to Evans Ndigili, Welfare Officer, Kisumu Maximum Prison, positive responses from the inmates that include attitude and behaviour change are being recorded in the prison.  

“Thank you to Crime Si Poa for offering psycho-social support to inmates, especially through mentorship and counselling sessions. More than ever, hope and positivity can be seen among inmates enrolled in the program compared to before,” said Brian.

The mental health sessions address various issues affecting inmates. The sessions equip them with knowledge and tactics to handle stressors that come with imprisonment. The reformation program will run for one year in 8 prisons across the country hence will help ensure a successful rehabilitation process.

Eric, one of the 72 inmates fortunate to participate in the reformation program divulged how the sessions have helped him find mental peace.

“The topic on intrapersonal conflict is what brought me out of the hole I was in. I was overburdened with bitter thoughts and regrets. It was hard for me to come to terms with what my life has become,” shared Eric

Through the sessions, Eric, a former police officer turned convict, was able to share what was causing those emotions and ultimately address the issue. He was convicted of murdering his wife due to infidelity issues.

“I was an administrative police officer who was extremely reserved. I never used to open up about issues that were affecting me. I know now that If I had spoken out more I wouldn’t be here.” he expressed. 

Eric now embraces the art of sharing as he chooses to accept his fate and trust that no problem is permanent, hoping one day he will be out of the dungeons and speaking out against crime.

John (not his real name for safety purposes) is another beneficiary of the program who has learned how to avoid conflict through effective communication. He was convicted due to a crime he committed over an escalated conflict at home.  John was accused by his family of murdering his cousin who died under mysterious circumstances. According to John his threats to kill his deceased cousin, for allegedly killing his father, turned against him and led his family to accuse him of the murder.

“If I knew what I know now I would probably not be here. My mantra is to listen, digest, and then respond. “I have learned to be more patient with both the prison guards and other inmates as well,” said John. 

Having been incarcerated due to a home conflict that turned sour, John understands how a small misunderstanding can easily lead one to gallows. He is currently working on appealing his case.

Research has shown that psychological trauma faced by inmates while in prison highly influences their rehabilitation process negatively. Providing psycho-social support to inmates, is, therefore, a key element in addressing cases of suicide, reducing the rates of re-offending, and promoting successful reintegration into the community.

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