Kenya: children in prison with their mothers – not their crime yet their sentence

Thirty years after the adoption of the charter, we still have a long way to go in accelerating the implementation of Agenda 2040: fostering an Africa fit for children.

Of particular note are the children who accompany their mothers to prison. According to the Kenyan constitution, Persons Deprived of Liberty Act (2014), mothers in prison are allowed to have their children accompany them until they attain the age of 4 years. While the constitution has done well to keep these children connected to their mothers, a lot more challenges continue to face them. While some prison institutions try to improve the conditions for these children, many fail to provide age specific diet therefore compromising on good health and nutrition.

Due to little or non-existent budget allocation, most prisons rely on well wishers to provide food donations, diapers, clothes, learning materials, beddings and other basic items. This has an impact on the growth and development of these children.

Unfortunately, the injustice continues after exit from prison. There is a no structured process for their reintegration once they attain the age of four years and are required to leave the prison to join the community.

But all is not lost. Aspiration 8 of the Agenda 2040 outlines how children can benefit from a child sensitive criminal justice system. Such a system would begin with preventive measures that ensure a pregnant woman or a mother with a child can be given non-custodial sentences for petty offences. Deliberate extra attention should also be provided for the child due to their age by providing an enabling environment within the prison system that provides for their developmental needs.