The Life of Convicts Which is Characterized by Hard Labor
I always thought the tales that I heard about prison were myths. These stories were never narrated in jolly moods. Normally, those who told the stories were usually gloomy and sad as if they didn’t want to recall that part of their lives. It was like a story out of a bad movie. I didn’t want to believe any of it because if I did I would have to accept certain truths that could not be fathomed. I would have to accept that there are monsters in this world and that the condemned have no rights.
A while ago, I had a dear friend whom I loved dearly. Our history dated to the early days of our childhood. We had become so close we had become more than friends. Every aspect of our lives revolved around each other. I was the godfather to his children and him mine. Even our children had become friends and also attended the same school. We all attended the same church and all social functions together. But as fate would have it this was not to last forever.
It was a night like any other. I was at home with my wife and children having supper when we received a telephone call. My friend, Albert, had just been arrested and was in custody at Central police station. I went to see what the matter was and on getting there Albert couldn’t be the happier. Apparently he was driving while intoxicated and unfortunately he had run over a pedestrian. After being arraigned in court he was found guilty and taken to Kamiti Maximum Prison in Kenya, where he was to serve a sentence of thirteen years without the possibility of parole.
Getting Used to the Living Conditions in Prison
At first he was fine. He was just getting used to the life behind bars but also coping with the life of deprived freedom and menial living situations. We would visit him regularly, bringing him food and other necessities. He would be happy when we visited him and I could see the hope coming back to him, bringing him happiness. After the first few months he began to change. He lost weight and never smiled even at the sight of his family. He became emotionless like a man without life or hope or passion.
When I finally asked him, he broke down into tears and narrated to me a disheartening story amidst the sobs. Every day, they would wake up at six in the morning and received a breakfast of thin white porridge which was served in plates. Then came the roll call and after that they would all be huddled into the prison vehicles to work wherever there was work to be done. A few of the lucky ones had found work in the prison. Some were cooks others were carpenters while others tended to farms and unlike their colleagues the received handsome benefits and privileges.
They had unlimited access to the stores and would pinch some of the goods to trade for cigarettes and marijuana which were considered as gold in prison. They enjoyed a nice pay which, from the proceedings they purchased cigarettes, marijuana and other essentials.
What it Takes to Survive in Prison Cells
He told me of how they would be taken to quarries to make ballast from huge boulders. The equipment they used were prehistoric and dull. They were only allowed to have thirty minute breaks which was around the time they were having water or at lunchtime where all that was offered was water and a few slices of brown bread. He said that at the end of the day, they would each carry whatever they had made in sacks and fill Lorries until your produce was over.
They would then be taken bake to the prison where they would have their supper then after the roll call they would retire to bed. Even though they had been promised some pay it was not guaranteed you would receive it. You had to be grateful for the privilege of being allowed to work in spite of spending all day in the prison. You had no rights and all that was given to you was a favor.
Food was still not a guarantee and you had to work for every meal. He told me that he had once been thrown into solitude confinement for asking about his wages. He had been beaten and deprived of food and they would constantly pour water in his cell just to show him who’s boss. For that mistake he was allocated to the crew which did the worst chores like unclogging the sewage pipes.
Sometimes they would catch a break and would spend the entire day in the fields slashing grass using grass slashers which were dull and rusty and most of the times the inmates who used them suffered from calluses. They would then load the grass into Lorries and then call it a day. At other times they would be taken to the prison fields where they either harvested or cultivated corn. This was a daily routine and a privilege at that. Sometimes they would receive a few coins as wages and would treat themselves to biscuits and cigarettes. But the situation never improved but only worsened. Things were not looking up for him.
That was a month ago since he told me his story and he has been long dead since then. He was found dangling from a window in his cell with a bed sheet around his neck. No note. No goodbye.