Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Langata Women's Prison

Me with Vickie, Maya, and Purity outside the prison.
On Monday I went to visit Langata Women's Prison with my friend Vickie and some of her colleagues.  In one of my earlier posts I talked about Nafisika Trust, which is the organization that Vickie started.  She spoke at one of our Tatua Talks about her work in the prisons in Nairobi.  Langata Women's Prison (LWP) is the only all women's prison in Nairobi.  Currently they have over 800 inmates! It is a big compound, but that is a lot of people to house.  LWP is comprised of a reprimand center for short sentences and those awaiting trial or sentencing, a medium security section for slightly longer sentences, and then maximum security for what we would consider federal offenses and long term sentences.  In my course of study at university I took a forensic social work class which deals with social work within the legal system and ever since then I have been interested in working in prisons.  I am a firm believer in rehabilitation programs to prevent recidivism.  Unfortunately there are not always programs because of lack of funding and other resources.
The entrance to the reprimand center.

The main reason we went to visit LWP, though, was to talk to the welfare officer about the effect living there has on the children of the inmates.  Children are allowed to stay there with their mothers until they are 4 years old.  If the mother is still in prison once the child turns 4 then the child is sent to a children's home until the mother is discharged.  Right now they are only working with one home.  Right now there are over 80 children living in the prison with their mothers.  More common that you would think, children are born there! Can you imagine? There are many children that are born in a prison and that is what they know as home.  Children are too often the innocent victims of circumstances.  I have seen that so much here in Kenya, but I know it is true world wide as well.

Nursery school.
 Some good things that I learned from talking to the welfare officer are that the children get to go to nursery school with the children of the prison staff in the compound, they are building a beautiful new day care facility, and the older children are in a home with kids from all different backgrounds.  They also said they work with the mothers to prepare them for reintegration with their children when they are discharged and they have visitation days 3 times a year.

                                                                             New day care center.

There are still things that can be done to improve life for these children.  Vickie has not really worked with this aspect of prison life before so I am excited about getting involved.  We want to start working on a program for the children that would get them outside the prison walls.  It breaks my heart that because of bad choices their mothers made they are living locked up.  Our goal is to start small and have some sort of field trip planned for them early next year.  We will start looking for resources to make this a reality so if you are interested in helping with any kind of donation please send me an email and let me know. The children also do not have access to a completely nutritious diet.  Right now they are basically surviving on porridge.  If you would like to donate to getting them fruits and vegetables you can let me know that too.

Some of the children in the nursery school.

I am hoping to visit the other prisons that Nafisika Trust works with soon.  As I have mentioned before they are doing some incredible work and I am so encouraged by Vickie's patience and love. The visit was a great way to start my week.

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