What is it Like Spending a Day With Juveniles at the Kamiti Youth Correctional & Training Centre? Elizabeth Wagachire, fondly known as Lizz shared her day with us.
‘Vitabu Magerezani’ is an initiative by the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central started in a bid to enhance continuity of education to juveniles at the Kamiti Youth Correctional and Training Centre – KYCTC through provision of reading and learning materials. The logic of the project is that these young men will be at par with their education once released therefore, will not opt to drop out. If these young men drop out of school they will probably go back to crime, and possibly face more serious consequences like imprisonment in the maximum security block that is infamous for its predatory sodomy and inhumane living conditions.
The project is a legacy of the former community service director, Mr. Charles Muthui. Saturday 28TH of January was the second time the club visited Kamiti. There was an active books drive spearheaded by the Community Service and Fundraising dockets in preparation of this day. The weather was cooperative with our day’s programme. We arrived at the venue at around ten o’clock in the morning and is it turns out, the rowdy behavior among teenagers dies down when you are under the law, literally! Forget about unkempt hairs and disorganized lawns, these teenagers have learnt the hard way – which seems like the best way to us because the impeccable beauty and the orderliness of the entire prison were endearing. The perfectly manicured lawns and absence of unsightly mounds of dirt were welcoming and inspiring.
Some things are humbling and our sighting of the calm and eager faces of the young boys, reminded us that these young men – possibly the age of our siblings wished to change a few bad decisions in their lives.
Days are shorter when you are on a tight prison schedule, so, it was time to share our love, spread cheers, and hope – sometimes, hope is all someone needs!
Our team spread out; some formed a team to play football against the residents, others were left organizing the handover venue, whereas others formed went to mentor the juveniles. It was through this interaction that I learned that the uniformed men were sentenced inmates serving time at the YCTC facility for four months whereas the others were actually on remand awaiting a verdict on their purported crimes.
Interaction with these young men was not only eye-opening but quite humbling. Did you know that within the prison lies another prison for those who violate the rules? These prison rooms are pitch-black, save for the tiny ventilation outlet! The room is also filled with water to the knee level and does not have any form of sanitation area; once a person is sentenced to “the hole” they have to somehow sleep on the wet floor, eat from there and help themselves there too (yup, number 1 & 2), it is important to note that no one cleans up the hole, therefore, the next person who violates the rules goes into the hole in the condition that the previous inhabitant left it at (just when you thought you were having a bad day huh?)
I was shocked to find out that touting was a crime, makes me think that you must be very unlucky to get arrested for this though. Also, you know those signs that people put up on their agricultural estates reading ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ did you know the ‘prosecution’ actually means jail time? I always thought one would get spanked or get chased by a mean dog. To all vulgar men out there insulting a lady who isn’t interesting in your advances could also mean some jail time so kindly consult a therapist to help out with broken ego. I must admit I had a swell time interacting with this young men, I also came to the realization that most people should have served some jail time, and that these young men were simply unlucky. We need to encourage and mentor these young men so that when they leave those prison walls, they are upstanding citizens. While the punishments are tough and heartbreaking for my soft heart, something else stands out – maybe, just maybe, these young men wouldn’t go through such experiences in their prime ages if they had someone to hold their hands. We may not do much, but, the little things we can, will change a few souls – that is all that matters, isn’t it?
We shared our contacts with these young men so that they can talk to us when they leave. This helps to continuously encourage them so that they don’t slip back to their old ways; one of them is already out and religiously sends me a bible verse each morning, what a blessing!
The 28th was a well-spent Saturday and I am already looking forward to January 2018.
Elizabeth Wagachire – Assistant Club Service Director