Last Thursday, Joy and the CLEAR team made one of their weekly visits to Lang’ata Women’s Prison in Nairobi. Many of these women prisoners are too poor to afford legal representation and not informed on their legal rights. They often lack a basic understanding of the charge against them and the relevant legal procedures they should follow. The situation with prisoners in Kenya is described in greater detail in Joy’s JusticeMakers project proposal.
These visits provide prisoners that are awaiting trial the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a CLEAR representative about their cases. The representative will then review the court files and assess the feasibility of offering free legal representation to the defendant. If they decide to proceed with the case, CLEAR will then advise them on the best course of action, how to effectively argue their case, and inform them on important court procedures.
Despite the initial reluctance of the prison authorities to allow the large CLEAR team to enter the prison, they were eventually granted access and proceeded to interview the prisoners that were awaiting trail. They spent three hours discussing cases; the majority of the alleged crimes were petty crimes, ranging from theft to failing to comply with Council orders to perform renovations on their properties. CLEAR were successful in providing advice to all of the prisoners they interacted with that day. In the best interest of these women, CLEAR determined that many of their cases would be able to be resolved outside of the courts.
The CLEAR team was relatively happy with the conditions at the prison, and overall, they found the prison authorities very agreeable to work with- they even assisted in dispensing legal advice to the women prisoners. CLEAR Nairobi is currently working towards providing legal education seminars at Lang’ata as a means of extending the reach of their programs to more prisoners. These seminars will occur in tandem with the one-on-one sessions with CLEAR staff, thereby ensuring that the prisoners are adequately informed on the rights in addition to them receiving direct legal advice.