The Power of Mercy Act provides that the Committee shall undertake or commission research and collect data relating to the power of mercy. In line with this function the Committee has recently commissioned a number of research surveys:
The Committee routinely monitors pardoned ex-offenders, in collaboration with the Probation & Aftercare Service, National Government Administrative Officers and the County Government among other agencies to access how they have resettled and their acceptance in to society. In particular, the Committee visits the released convicts and interacts with the communities around them so as to assess how the convicts are reintegrating back to society.
During the financial year 2020 – 2021 the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee commissioned a research survey titled ‘Follow up Study on Pardoned Offenders in Kenya’ comprehensive research on convicted offenders who have received executive clemency.
It was anticipated that the research findings would provide reliable data on the post penal scenario in the country in addition to supporting the ongoing review of the legislative, policy and institutional frameworks for the administration of the power of mercy in Kenya. It was further envisioned that the findings of the study would provide accurate information that would be useful in aiding the Committee’s stakeholders in the formulation of relevant policies. The survey was conducted by POMAC with technical support from the National Crime Research Center (NCRC), whose mandate is to carry out research into crime trends, causes, consequences and prevention.
The overall objectives of the study were:
- to establish the current status of offenders who have received Presidential clemency in Kenya;
- to assess the outcomes of current mercy practice and whether it is meeting the intended objectives;
- investigate the social, economic and demographic challenges that offenders are faced with upon release and which may contribute to recidivism;
- highlight existing barriers that prohibit the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the community; and
- provide recommendations to all the relevant role-players and stakeholders.
Research Focus areas
The key focus areas of the survey were:
- Current economic and social status of the pardoned offender
- Family and community ties
- Resettlement and reintegration experience of the pardoned offender
- Community acceptance and stigma
- Nature of interactions between the pardoned offender and victims of the offence that was committed by the pardoned offender
- Conflict with the law and recidivism
- Supervision of pardoned offenders
- Opinions and observations on the petition process by stakeholders
The premise of this study which was conducted in June 2020 was to establish the current state of the pardon process and risk assessment procedures that would improve the systems, structures, and processes and ultimately contribute to enabling a safer society. The specific objectives of the study included;
- to identify best practices that could enhance the pardon process; and
- assessing the risk management system within the pardon process.
The study was conducted in twelve Counties and targeted stakeholders in the pardon process who include the National Police Service, Prison Service, Probation and Aftercare Service, The Judiciary, National Government Administration Officers, The Witness Protection Agency and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions among others.
A. POST-CONVICT RELEASE MONITORING
Observations and Recommendations
In the course of conducting pardoned convict post release monitoring, the Committee has noted the following challenges that pose a threat to successful reintegration and resettlement of pardoned ex-offenders:
- Stigma and rejection by close kin, neighbours and the community.
- Disinheritance of land and other family property, particularly where the inmate had been imprisoned for a long period;
- Despite acquiring skills in prison, pardoned offenders lack tools of trade, equipment and startup capital to establish their own businesses after release.
- Pardoned offenders are denied employment opportunities due to lack of certificate of good conduct
- Strained social networks, due to the long periods of incarceration, resulting to broken and or / separated families.
The Committee recommends the following interventions to address the stated challenges:
- Need for close collaboration with the County Government to facilitate empowerment for pardoned ex-offenders that could include provision of work opportunities, tools or startup capital.
- Establishment of half way homes for released ex-convicts.
- Establishment of structured medical care program for released mentally ill patients. Consider follow up through the relevant agencies in the national and County governments.
- Develop policies leading to legislation at both national and county government for interventions in supporting the resettlement and re-integration of pardoned ex-offenders.
B. FOLLOW UP STUDY ON PARDONED OFFENDERS
It was anticipated that the research findings would provide reliable data on the post penal scenario in the country in addition to supporting the ongoing review of the legislative, policy and institutional frameworks for the administration of the power of mercy in Kenya. It was further envisioned that the findings of the study would provide accurate information that would be useful in aiding the Committee’s stakeholders in the formulation of relevant policies.
i. Lack of employment
Unemployment is the most serious problem experienced by most pardoned offenders.
ii. Criminal records
Most of the respondents held the view that a criminal record makes offenders less employable and denies them other opportunities, given that most employers do background checks on prospective employees.
iii. Family and community relationships
Majority of participants noted that one of the greatest challenges they face was the issue of mending broken relations with their family and the community at large.
iv. Psychosocial challenges
A common challenge experienced by many pardoned offenders is feelings of hopelessness and mental anguish
Many offenders were found to have been disinherited by their families, their portions of land having been sold prior to their release, leaving the pardoned offenders landless and reliant on family members.
vi. Inadequate aftercare services
The struggle to adjust after imprisonment as highlighted in the survey may largely be a result of limited aftercare service provision to pardoned offenders
An examination of the re-offending rate highlighted by the survey depicted the problem of recidivism.
i. Need for a multi-agency approach
There is need to adopt a multi-agency approach to resettlement, reintegration and supervision of released offenders by establishing mechanisms for various partners from the public, private and civil society sectors to work together and address the complex needs of pardoned offenders released from prisons.
ii. Criminal records
There is need for a progressive policy on management of criminal records that allows pardoned ex-offenders to obtain a certificate of good conduct provided that they meet certain conditions
iii. Establishment of a parole system
It is recommended that there be established a new system of parole that will provide a framework for a coordinated multi-agency approach to resettlement, reintegration, supervision and monitoring of offenders released from prisons.
iv. Enactment of an aftercare policy and bill
It is recommended that the Correctional Services formulate a comprehensive Aftercare Policy and Bill that would provide legislative basis, policy guidelines and structured arrangements between various stakeholders to support the resettlement and reintegration of pardoned offenders
It is recommended that a centralised database of victims be created under the auspices of the Victim Protection Agency to facilitate access to victims by the Committee
vi. Restorative justice approach
It is recommended that there be adopted a restorative justice approach that would enable a holistic approach to offender reintegration. This could include promoting reconciliation and mediation as part of the pardon process.