OPEN DOOR POLICY, THE RIPPLE EFFECT
The thought of detention, comes with the denial of freedom to move and associate with whomever we choose is tormenting enough, yet it is not far-fetched for one to wear such shoes. Picture this. You have been arrested, flogged and detained to process trial, in a justice system functioning within a Constitution selfish of liberties and rights, intimidation and debilitating attitude of human rights. This is Kenya before 2010.
Despite this unresponsive legal and policy scenario, that had engineered, ingrained, entrenched and protected grave human rights violations in Kenyan prisons, there emerged the visionary Commissioner of Prisons Abraham Kamakil who in the year 2000, introduced the “Open-Door Policy.” The Policy aimed to invite stakeholders and interested parties into deliberate partnership with the Prisons department to strategically improve the services, image and conditions of detention. This would later reduce incidents of corporal punishment, unexplained deaths, torture and other degrading inhuman treatment of the inmates, prominent in 1990s and early 2000s.
THE CONCEPT OF CHILDREN COURT USERS’ COMMITTEES (CCUC)
Just like many transiting countries in Africa, Kenya’s own Juvenile Justice System is undergoing robust changes occasioned by the enactment of Constitution of Kenya 2010. Reforms under this sector touch on legal and policy frameworks that are currently undergoing review to conform to the new constitutional realities, including the total overhaul of Children Act of 2001. In this process, and the foreseeable future, the concept of CCUCs will remain an innovation that would ensure consolidation of practices and actions towards the enhancement of protection and security of children who find themselves enmeshed in the complex legal system.
CCUCs as an innovation, and evidence.
In Kenya’s justice system, CCUCs concept was a new tool introduced and piloted by Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) under improving the Kenya Juvenile Justices system Project In 2014 in Seven court stations namely: Machakos, Tononoka, Winam, Makadara, Nyeri, Milimani and Nakuru and has since then been adopted by various jurisdictions.
AMPLIFYING THE CONVERSATION ON STATE REGULATED OFFENCES
LRF employs the paralegal approach to deliver its programmes across the country. Paralegals are stationed in different communities including prisons. Among the prisons benefiting from this initiative is the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison (NRAP) where LRF started operating back in 2003 and provides legal aid to inmates, Human Rights Monitoring and Capacity enhancement. The prison is served by various courts in Nairobi and neighbouring counties.
To address the hurdles facing the inmates, LRF innovated a dialogue system dubbed Access to Justice Committees whose aim was to bring together stakeholders in the Justice system. LRF supported the concept till it was adopted in statute and funded by the government and is now referred to as Court Users Committee (CUC). However, resources are not sufficient hence LRF continues to support holding of CUCs’ meetings across the country besides building their capacity on certain thematic gaps.