Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Kenya Prisons Enterprise Corporation Order, 2018. It establishes the Prisons Enterprise Corporation, mandated to expand the scope of the prisons work programmes so as to unlock the revenue potential of the prisons industry.
Ultimately, the purpose is to turn said programmes to lend them a reform agenda, while at the same time making prisons financially self-sustaining. Indeed, according to the Presidency, the new corporation would also contribute to the realisation of the President’s Big Four agenda, especially on food security, affordable housing, and manufacturing.
The corporation will strive to organise and manage the assets of the Prisons Department, including 86 prison farms that boast 18,226 acres of land. Kenya Prison Farms Fund and the Kenya Prison Enterprise Fund manage the production and sale processes under the enterprise directorate.
The two funds will be merged into a new kitty under a typical business model to turn around economic fortunes of the Prisons Department.
The corporation is expected to eliminate bureaucracy and establish a culture of professional training and certification for the staff and inmates. More importantly, it will foster ease of entry into partnership with the private sector on different spheres.
This is where the turning point will be realised. Once inmates leave prisons at the end of their sentences, it is important that they leave with skills to enable them integrate into society and job market.
This will be the game changer in the reform agenda, as inmates find it hard to gain acceptance into society. A large population of ex-prisoners found their way to jail owing to lack of skills and joblessness. They leave jail worse off.
It is against this background premise that we laud the establishment of the new corporation, which should also manage the cash that prisoners will earn from the sale of products, including artefacts to high-class furniture.
Land and other assets owned by the department should be exploited to realise commercial value, to reduce overeliance on the State funding.
The objective of transforming correction facilities to rehabilitative institutions will be served well by the new corporation.