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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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 

Ends.

police officers

Collaboration Between Police and Youth will Improve Service Delivery in Kenya

 The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010 brought a new life in Kenya. Among them is the reform of police services, geared towards modernizing and transforming the police agencies into professional and accountable police services responsive to the needs of Kenyans. This came after decades of law enforcement marked by police brutality, harassment, and extrajudicial killings.

A lot of changes have been witnessed in the National Police Service (NPS) in terms of administrative, institutional, policy, and legislative frameworks. However, despite all these efforts, a daunting task remains in boosting a good rapport between the police and civilians.

The acts of impunity by some members of the police service have greatly eroded the confidence of Kenyans towards the police. Most of the time, the police force is viewed as an enemy, a threat to life and peace, instead of being protectors of life.

Unprecedented violence, human rights, and dignity violations have hugely dented the image of the National Police Service; despite the many good acts of service, they have rendered to citizens. 

However, as much as we would like to lean on the negative side of the police force, it would be a grave injustice not to mention the many good acts of service rendered to Kenyans by the police. There are many good officers who have done exemplary work for the people, and in them, “Utumishi kwa wote” has found its fulfillment.

Talk about the officer who traded a gun for chalk to teach some students at the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Not forgetting the 25 police officers recognized by Manu Chandaria for their good work. There is much to be said about the Kenyan police on the peace-keeping mission in South Sudan, honored by the United Nations. Many good, loyal, and dedicated members of the police service have proved time and again that the public can still trust them to protect them. 

Changing the narrative 

To avert further aggression between the community and the police force, we must look back and check where we went wrong as a country and find possible solutions to this menace.

Historically, a culture of impunity was passed down from the colonial era and is evident in post-colonial Africa. The colonists used African tribesmen to carry out punitive expeditions on their fellow Africans. In the same vein, the police have little regard paid to the law, and the fact that it is little or no accountability for the police does not help.

Secondly, how the police are trained could be a factor in explaining the violence exhibited by our men and women in uniform. If you have been to Kiganjo, you have seen how the recruits are subjected to dehumanizing and degrading exercises in the name of recruitment. The lack of professionalism in the process might explain the situation’s “Kwa ground”. 

Lastly, the almost non-existent structures of civilian oversight do not make things better. The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) was founded in 2011 to investigate police brutality and killings as a way to check the power of the police. To date, only about 13 convictions out of 10,000 complaints lodged have been made. 

The much-needed shift 

There is a need for a 180-degree shift in mindset, which can only be brought about by training. If training is done properly, with regard to qualification and the dignity of the recruits, it will reflect on how they perform their duties. The training should focus more on human rights and the rule of law and be conducted in such a manner that the two are ingrained in the minds and hearts of the officers.

A powerless IPOA banking on the cooperation of the NPS will never perform as it ought to. The institution needs to have the power to compel the Inspector-General of Police to ensure accused police officers cooperate during investigations. Additionally, the government needs to allocate adequate funds to IPOA to enable them to conduct investigations. 

Another way to enhance oversight of the NPS could be to devolve the police service, borrowing a leaf from the American model that has established police departments in each state. Devolving the police service would allow for easier management of the officers by the county government. This would increase accountability as compared to centralized control of the police service. Devolving would also make the police more responsive to issues affecting residents of particular counties. This will also enable IPOA to monitor and investigate independent police departments, unlike a centralized one.

As Kenyans, we also have an individual responsibility to ensure that “Utumishi Kwa Wote” becomes a reality through expressing themselves by raising their voices against impunity as well as by being law-abiding citizens.