A photo of petty offenders in priosn before they were released. Photo/ Citizen Digital
A photo of petty offenders in priosn before they were released. Photo/ Citizen Digital

Every day we get text messages and calls from prisoners who try to trick us into sending them money. Many are fast to send back savage replies just to let them know that we are well aware of their little shenanigans.

However, rarely do we think about the life the inmates go through that forces them to resort to such antics. What do they need the money for anyway? Perhaps they save it up as an investment kitty for use once they are released or maybe they just use it to better their lives in prison.

Life in prison is undoubtedly hard mainly because it is punishment for breaking the law. It is hard getting the real scoop of what life is like in prison for the information we get is mainly testimonies from ex-convicts who come out to share their ordeals.

The rumors we hear about prison are not far from the truth. This is according to the stories told by those who had the disprivilege of spending time behind bars.

Life in prison is survival for the fittest. Many are locked behind bars and never get to see the outside of the correction facilities ever again.

Food is not your right

For the common mwananchi, food is a basic human need. We go to work just to be able to provide food for ourselves and our families. Things are different inside a prison as eating is NOT GUARANTEED.

Speaking during an interview, Eric Ochere, a comedian who goes by the stage name of Ndrendende, prison food is not guaranteed to any inmate.

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Ndrendende humorously referred to prison food service as ‘Peter Wesonga’ which rhymes with ‘Pita We Songa’ (Pass, Move).

Ndrendende said that those are the words the prison cooks utter the most when they are serving food. They tell everyone to pass and move whether or not you have been served. Basically, all the cook does is put the food on a plate they see, any plate.

It doesn’t matter whether it is your plate that was served with food or not, once you are told to move you have to oblige. If you delay you might anger other inmates and as he says it’s not something anyone would like to encounter.

Photo (Ebru Africa TV)

“Kukula si ati ni kama haki yako. Lazima ufighitie uordinary (Eating is not like your right. You have to fight for it),” Ndrendende narrated.

Use of Toilets

Just like food, toilets are a necessity for human survival. Ndrendende who narrated his prison experience during an episode of Dr. Kingori’s Wicked Edition on NTV said that in Kamiti Maximum Prison where he served time there are only two open-air pit latrines.

He stressed that it is not easy to access the toilets as the two are shared by over 6,000 inmates.

The comedian mentioned that the toilets are only opened during mealtime. The queue outside the toilets is still the same queue for food such that after using the toilet, you quickly dash to the food queue.

However, one can never be done in the toilets as other inmates are also pressed and they can only be so patient.

In the event you are not relieved after using the toilet and feel the need to go again, then you will have to go back behind the queue and wait for another turn. The comedian who spent five years at Kamiti summarized life behind bars as hell on earth.

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Homosexuality is a Norm

On the days new inmates are admitted, the regulars lock horns bidding on preferred new inmates as they battle to share a room with them.

This is one scenario where the inmates need money; to get laid. Allocation of rooms is done by conniving inmates which makes it easier for the old guard to bid for a newcomer.

The inmate who pays the most money to the room allocator gets to share a room with the new inmate. Once given the chance, the veteran inmate gladly shares goodies with the newbie but will expect something in return.

Ghetto radio presenter Nicholas Cheruiyot alias King Kafu also spent some time behind bars and shared his experiences. The radio presenter said he was mostly amazed by how homosexuality is normal in prison.

Watu wanaoana wenyewe kwa wenyewe. Unaona vitu zile hufanyika kama couples kupigana? zinahappen huko ndani. Mtu anapigania dem yake na saa hiyo dem yake ni chali (Inmates marry one another. The relationship issues couples face out here is just about what happens in prison. You fight for your male girlfriend),” King Kafu narrates.

With all these happening in Kenyan prisons, a person caught engaging in homosexual activities will still be sent to prison. A prolonged honeymoon indeed.

Photo (The Economist)

Life After Prison

After the tough life in prison, one still has to struggle to fit into society after being released. Life in prison is difficult because of the deplorable living conditions but life after prison is unbearable because you have to work ten times harder to be accepted back into society.

An ex-convict is known to society as an ex-convict. Despite having served in prison for the wrong they might have done, the society takes time before accepting an ex-convict back into the system. Many ex-convicts have shed tears talking about how abandoned they felt after they were released from prison.

It is indeed a difficult life. Anyone who has gone through the prison system in Kenya will tell you that for free. It all starts with a crime. The only way to keep yourself from ever going through such an experience is by not engaging in crime.

Do not engage in crime.

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About the Author

Kevin Namunwa is a senior reporter for Business Today. Email at [email protected]

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