Hugs, handshakes and tears of joy flowed freely as Nairobi West Prison on Thursday opened its doors to families and relatives of inmates during the correctional facilty’s Open Day.
The hard prison life was put aside as the inmates mingled freely with their families and relatives whom they had not seen for long.
The usually quiet prison turning into a beehive of activities as hundreds of people streamed into the prison on a day that comes once in every four months.
Suleiman Muriungi was an elated man as he freely chatted with his family members who had come to visit him for the first time since he was convicted more than four years ago for attempted defilement.
Mr Muriungi was arrested in August 2013 in Karen where he was working just months after leaving his rural home in Meru and later sentenced to 10 years in jail for having a relationship with a minor, a secondary school going girl who at the time was in Form Three.
His family did not know about his whereabouts until this Sunday, April 22 when they finally got wind of where their son was through his older brother Nuru Kithinji. The family also got to know about the ‘Open Day’ at the prison making the day one of the best in their lives.
“I feel very happy to see my relatives here. It has been long and painful years living behind these walls without having anyone coming to see as your colleagues share together with their families,” said a teary Muriungi.
Three metres away from the excited family was another one of a young father, his 7-month-old daughter and his wife.
John Baraka (not his real name) was happy to see his young family with him as he took time to play with his daughter whom he had left while still in her mother’s womb.
He had not set his eyes on her daughter after being sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for rape, a charge which he says he did not commit as the lady in question was his girlfriend of more than a year.
“It is hard to be away from your family for a crime you did not commit. I pray everyday for God to intervene and ensure justice is served. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see my wife and daughter and share some family moment with them,” said Mr Baraka.
But as Baraka and Muriungi enjoyed the warmth of having their loved ones with them, American citizen John Bishop sat pensively staring at the entrance of the prison as he waited for a family member to appear at the gate as the clock ticked towards the end of the Open Day.
The 62-year-old was sentenced to 13 years in prison for drug trafficking in 2007 and ever since he has never had a single family member or relative coming to visit him.
“I’m waiting here just like some of us who have not had any visitor today. I know nobody will come but you know miracles do happen. I have received few emails since I was sentenced and a few phone calls here and there,” said Mr Bishop, a medical missionary.
Officer in charge of the prison, Mr Peter Njoroge, said the prison holds an Open Day for the 500 inmates in the penitentiary three times in a year to make sure that they don’t lose touch with their families and the community.
“This day gives the inmates an extended time to engage and make contact with their families and relatives of all ages as opposed to other visiting days when they only have 20 minutes or so, and only those above the age of 18 are allowed,” said Mr Njoroge.