Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by saluting the 2,699 young men and women before us for successfully completing their 9 months training. I commend their diligence and commitment both to this course and to the greater goal of serving their country through our justice system. I also applaud all the parents and guardians with us who have – without wavering – supported these graduands over the last few months and who now share in their success. Kwa wazazi wote, walezi wote – twasema asante!
Today, the graduands are celebrating the passing out parade after going through a rigorous initial course for Prisons officers along with Diploma and Certificate in Security and Correctional Science. The programme is courtesy of the ongoing partnership between Kenya Prisons Service and Kenyatta University. I thank both institutions for pioneering this initiative.
Graduands, as Prison Officers, you are charged with the mandate of managing a wide range of persons in our prisons – from the most unruly offenders, to those who have committed minor crimes. Your job is to ensure that these men and women are held securely, that their basic needs are attended to, and that, whatever crimes they have committed, the fundamental rights they possess under our Constitution and bill of rights are respected and protected.
That job is critical to ensuring the safety of the general public. Lowering crime, stemming radicalization and advancing security within our communities and our country all require that our prison institutions offer not just retributive justice but also the prospect of reform. Our justice system exists not just to punish offenders or to deter possible offenders from doing wrong; it exists also to encourage those who have done wrong to change, and to once more contribute meaningfully to society.
In the 21st Century, at a time when justice systems the world over are being re-assessed and re-evaluated, this is the kind of prison system we need to build here in Kenya: a robust, rehabilitative system. A system that seeks not to condemn but to correct. A system that doesn’t marginalize those who merit a second chance.
A system which ensures that those who are paroled have the support, knowledge,networks, skills and incentive they need to find gainful employment, make moral decisions, follow the law, and avoid re-incarceration.
As officers on the front lines of our prison institutions, you are the face of a system with which inmates interact with every day. You are expected to be courageous not contemptuous; compassionate not callous; above all, you must remember that those you guard are Kenyans, just like you. Show them your humanity. Show them mercy. Show them not just the hardship of punishment, but also the hope of restoration.
To do that, you will need more than technical skills and the universal qualities of diligence and excellence that all employees ought to strive after.
You also need solid judgement, strength of character, an inflexible allegiance to justice, and an unwavering respect for the dignity of all. These traits cannot be taught in a program. These traits cannot be learned through a course. These traits will only exist in those among you who sincerely reflect on not just the kind of Prison Officers you hope to be, but the kind of people and citizens you want to be, too.
Graduands, as you open this next chapter of your lives I urge you to begin that process of reflection today. As you take your oath of office, consider how you will actualize it, how you will creatively use your position to serve our nation by serving prisoners, how you will leverage the skills and talents you have to transform our prison institutions and thereby advance the security of our country.
As you do, I extend my commitment that we, as Government, will continue to have a version of this conversation internally, among ourselves.
We will continue to analyze the larger justice system and seek to align it ever more closely to justice; and we will continue to invest in building the kind of prison infrastructure and system that keeps Kenya safe. And we will continue to support you.
Already, significant steps have been made in collaboration with the National Counter-Terrorism Centre to improve training curriculum for staff and rehabilitation programmes for inmates in order to curb violent extremism in prisons.
A multi-agency Task Force, which I appointed to assess the capacity of Kenya Prisons Service, has concluded its assignment and presented the report for further review — which we will shortly be undertaking. We have put in place a comprehensive group life insurance cover for all prison officers, including today’s graduands, in order to support your welfare. And even now, we are assessing budgetary allocations to ensure that prisons receive the funds they need to improve staff housing for prison officers – which, I realize, remains a pressing concern for many officers.
Before I close, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the graduands for their patriotism and commitment to the welfare of fellow Kenyans who have been affected by the ongoing drought. In this regard, I am especially appreciative to you who are standing before us today for your contribution of Kshs 1.265 million towards efforts to mitigate the effects of drought. Indeed, the prison fraternity as a whole has contributed Kshs 3.047 million.
Our pledge is that we will continue to work with you all, to invest in the transformation of our Prison service. That said, graduands, it is critical that you also play your part.
In closing, let me congratulate you all, graduands, once again for your efforts. I wish you every success in your endeavours.
Thank you and God bless you all.