The Interior Ministry is disposing of through a public auction the Kenya Prisons Service livestock that was, ironically, reared to cut the cost of feeding prisoners.
The move by the ministry’s State Department for Correctional Services is despite the fact that the prisons embarked on the rearing of livestock, among other farming projects, to make the service food self-sufficient.
Concerns have been raised on the economic viability of the auction bearing in mind that the Service continues to buy meat to feed the inmates.
“The project was meant to cut the cost of feeding prisoners besides instilling discipline and inculcating in them the spirit of hard work in the inmates involved,” a senior government official told People Daily.
Though experts have warned that the Service risks not getting value for money, sources within the Department, however, defended the move saying the auction will help cut wastage, adding that some of the animals are old and need to be sold and replaced with better hybrids.
“The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government invites eligible bidders for disposal of prison’s livestock for the financial year 2020-2021,” the notice read.
Currently, there are over 3600 heads of livestock within the correctional facilities and the service consumes about 990 tonnes of meat every year.
In Kamiti prison, for example, the service set up a beef farm with about 350 Boran cattle. The project started in 2018 with about 50 heads of cattle acquired from the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC).
Initially, the plan was to cut the cost incurred on beef by half.
The ministry embarked on a scheme to enhance and commercialise the farms for better productivity, and ultimately to make the Service self-sufficient.
According to Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, the ministry embarked on a scheme to enhance and commercialise the farms for better productivity, and ultimately to make the Service self-sufficient to provide about 990 tonnes of meat every year.
In an advert in the dailies, the ministry said it was disposing of livestock for the financial year 2020/2021through tender number SDC/34/2020-2021 according to the advert that appeared on one of the local dailies on 25th May 2021.
It has however not been established if the government will get value for money by selling them through auction and not to the recently refurbished and now fully operational Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) managed by the military, or just use them to feed the prisoners.
The President has already directed all security agencies including the Prisons Service to start getting their meat from the KMC with a view of developing and empowering our cattle farmers.
One of the main mandates of the Service is to provide rehabilitation programmes aimed at changing the criminal behaviour of offenders to become better citizens.
Despite the funding challenges, the Service is involved in farming, livestock rearing and many other activities. The farms, apart from producing food, also keep the prisoners busy and go a long way in the process of rehabilitation.
In Nyandarua, for example, the service is engaged in English potato farming, while in Kitale, Eldoret, Shikusa in Kakamega County, and Uasin Gishu’s Ngeria is maize production.
The farms, especially for short term offenders, is one of the core rehabilitation programmes besides feeding the prisoners population.
According to experts, these projects are not only affordable ways to feed the prison population and earn revenue but also a disciplinary and rehabilitative work program where they are also taught basic farming skills.
The prisoners can use generalised job skills and new-found self-esteem to break the vicious cycle of recidivism, even as they learn teamwork, reliability and punctuality.
“It should never be exploitative but be rehabilitative, serve as a means of corporate profit and institutional cost-cutting,” an expert said.
The service is currently facing a myriad of challenges including delayed staff promotions, poor housing and stoppage of rehabilitation programmes