In the depths of Nairobi Central Business District in Ngara lies a small yet noble organization known as Crime Si Poa. It was started Mr. Pete Ouko, together with other inmates, within the confines of the Kamiti walls. Yes, you read right. Kamiti Maximum Prison! The one that we have stereotyped as some sort of hell where the worst deserve to be locked up. However, it is somewhat a pit of hope as well as the basis of change for some individuals. Change that should be the purpose of justice.
To say that we were privileged to conduct our service-based learning there feels like an understatement. It was more than a privilege; it was humbling, it was molding and so much more. I am sure you are wondering what ‘Crime Si Poa’ (Crime is not good) is? Well, it is a non – profit organization that deals with rehabilitation of youth exposed to crime by providing basic legal knowledge to citizens from marginalized areas such as informal settlements. It also provides legal aid services to the most vulnerable in society.
We could not foresee that what started as a mission to complete our mandatory 225 hours would end up becoming so meaningful and impactful. We performed several tasks but one of the most notable ones was mentoring youth and minors in conflict with the law at Kamiti Youth Correctional and Training Centre (KYCTC). For people who had never been to prison before, visiting prison was quite an experience. Getting to interact with our agemates as well as younger people who were in custody was an eye-opening moment. It made us not only realize how much our system is broken but also how blessed we are to be where we are, have what we have and to grow in shielded environments.
Other tasks involved visiting Thika and Makadara Law courts where we assisted in following up some of the cases of the boys at KYCTC. (When they say courts have tons of cases and are understaffed, trust us when we tell you it is not a bluff.) We also had the opportunity to engage in a community outreach session in Mathare where we addressed Gender Based Violence. Lastly, we were involved in weekly paralegal trainings where we taught several youth leaders from marginalized areas about basic legal topics such as rights of citizens.
We were startled by the huge disconnect between the theory we learn in law school and how things operate ‘kwa ground’. And that is why we have uncompassionate lawyers and judges; legal practitioners who desire nothing beyond money, who seek to serve themselves before the nation. It would be enlightening if every law student got a chance to share in our experience or rather even visit prisons occasionally and get to have a different glimpse of what the ‘reality’ really is.
Appreciate what you have
We learnt a lot. Coming across cases where girls are continuously taken advantage of because they cannot afford sanitary towels, or a meal is heartbreaking. You do not need to hear more to appreciate what you have. We always mistakenly thought that you need to be influential or wealthy to make a difference. However, Crime Si Poa taught us that where there is a will there is a way. Whether influential or not, all you need to have is the willingness and heart to make a difference, however small. We understood that ex-convicts are people just like everyone else and they deserve a second chance. We learnt that the future we have been waiting for, to make a difference, is now and we have to be bold enough to spearhead it instead of sitting back and waiting for others to do it.
This article was written by Yvonne Kuria and Nzau Muthio Bridget, Bachelor of Laws second year students.