On Friday, 30th August, 2019 Kituo cha Sheria joined the Kisumu Maximum Prison – Kodiaga Prison Justice Center to commemorate the Access to Justice Day. Access to justice exists when the public can understand, use and afford information and services to prevent and resolve their legal disputes and to achieve just outcomes without delay. This and the realization that lack of access to justice; is injustice made Kituo commemorate the Day. The Day was not only a celebration but was also meant to empower the prisoners to enable them access justice with emphasis on fundamental human rights, legal representation and the judicial procedures.

To celebrate the achievements of Kituo’s paralegals and the prison justice centre; members of the prison community were led by prison paralegals in tree planting, song, dance and poetry.

The central activity taking place during the day was a moot court skit meant to aid the prisoners in learning about bail and bond, community service order, legal representation and the judicial procedures.

In attendance at the celebrations were Kituo Cha Sheria’s board member Dr. Okech Owiti and program manager Valarie Ang’awa. Nyando community justice centre paralegals Frank Opande and Judith Ochanda also joined the celebration. Others present were: a Representative of the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Kisumu Maximum Prison, Mr. Patrick Kariba and the Kodiaga prison human rights officer, Mr. Charles Yambo.

The special day was set aside for prison facilities to sensitize them on the need to ensure that Justice is not only accessible to the prisoners but that it is also realized at the Prisons. This is why also in attendance were various stakeholders in the justice system in Kisumu including Hon. Julius K. Ng’arng’ar, the Chief Magistrate-Kisumu; Ms. Akoth Lina, Magistrate; Peter Onyango and Maxwel Bagada, Volunteer Advocates in Kisumu and Mr. Joseph Maiyeka from the Probation Office Kisumu Central. The ODPP’s office in Kisumu was represented by Stephen Ogeto and Christopher Kinyua.

The guests came to interact with inmates as well as to listen to the challenges they come across while lodging appeals against their cases. The Kodiaga Prison Justice Center together with other prison centers have contributed to the decongestion of prisons and at the same time made justice accessible to those who could not afford the services of an advocate. 30 prison paralegals were trained in Kodiaga in 2015 and only 14 remain at the prison justice centre currently. This partly testament to work done by the prison paralegals who have lodged 154 petitions of appeal to various high courts in the western region over the last one year.

The centre has registered 24 acquittals in High Courts, 15 acquittals in the Kisumu Court of Appeal, 21 reduction of sentences and 32 remanded self-represented prisoners whose cases were managed by paralegals were released.

Giving the keynote address Dr. Okech Owiti expressed Kituo’s satisfaction in seeing prisoners being able to self-represent and having access to justice within the prison-“the palace of correction”.

“Over 10,000 people have been released on appeal directly from the work of prison paralegals countrywide, you just need to know the facts of your case and prepare thoroughly”, he said.

Dr. Owiti closed the day’s celebrations expressing Kituo’s gratitude to the Royal Dutch Embassy for their support and passing greeting from Kituo’s board of directors and the entire Kituo family. Kituo finally supported the centre with administrative materials including stationery.

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