Tuesday, 10 June 2008
KENYA: Catholic Prison Workers Say Warders’ Grievances Real NAIROBI,
April 29, 2008 (CISA) -While some efforts have been made to improve living conditions for prisoners, the people who care for them have been neglected by the state, Catholic prisons personnel said.Prison warders around the country have been on strike since last week demanding better pay and working conditions. Media pictures showed crumbling shacks in which the warders live with their families as well as broken-down sanitation facilities.Daniel, a married man who quit as a warder after 20 years, told the Nation newspaper of life at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Nairobi. “I lived in a hall that had been converted into a residential house and partitioned with curtains, with each warder being allocated a single room. Life was very difficult since there was no privacy in the house. As a result, our unmarried colleagues were always fighting over women.”The national Catholic chaplain Fr Peter Kimani confirmed to CISA that the grievances raised by prison warders are genuine.The government declared the strike a mutiny and arrested some senior warders who have been charged in court. But the state has offered the warders a new risk allowance and compensation for their work in quelling the post-election violence.Brother Linus Schoutsen, director of Fr Grol’s Welfare Projects which runs a prisons apostolate, described the warders’ situation as really bad. “They have a real reason to strike.” Many of the warders are hardworking people in spite of poor remuneration and deplorable working conditions, he said.Br Schoutsen pointed out that prisons around the country make a lot of money from various income generating activities such as farming and carpentry. But the government takes away all the money instead of using it to better the welfare of the workers.Consolata missionary Fr Eugene Ferrari who is the chaplain at Kamiti said: “The conditions in which the warders live are very poor and inhuman. You find two or three families living in one room with only a sheet as partitioning.”For fear of having their belongings stolen, warders sharing rooms have to lock up everything they own before they leave for duty. Fr Ferrari said he had once brought the issue to the attention of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which deals with prisons.