Retiring warder seeks to protect prisoners’ dignity

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 00:00 | By
Emily Momanyi. Photo/PD/ Nyaboga Kiage

Throughout her 41-year career in the Kenya Prisons Service, Emily Momanyi approached her role with benevolence.  

She began her career in July 1977 at Manyani Maximum Prison in Taita Taveta county. 

It was at this point that she came face-to-face with challenges convicts face. As she moved from one station to the other, she felt obliged to do more to help change lives of prisoners. 

“They  face the same challenges across all prisons. This is something I have learnt for the four decades I worked in the Prison department. From my first station to the rest, I realised that the struggles were mutual,” she said.  

In an interview with People Daily, Momanyi, who retired last week after serving in various senior ranks at the Prisons department shared her career journey.

She was then moved from Manyani to Shimo la Tewa in Mombasa. 

She also worked at the Embu Women Prison before she was later moved to Central Workshop as a chief inspector. 

General duties

After more than three decades on the job, Momanyi was promoted to Lang’ata Women’s Prison for general duties and in 2012 she was promoted to the rank of Superintendent. 

A year later she was promoted to Deputy Officer in-charge of the same prison.“I started pondering of the best way I could assist the prisoners and also ensure that they relate well with the warders.

This is after I was promoted into a superintendent,” she said. In 2013,  she  again came  face-to-face with death when she was serving as the Deputy Officer in-charge at Lang’ata. 

On that fateful day, she was executing a presidential order that was issued in 2013 that all mobile phones within the department be seized. 

At the time, the prison department was experiencing corruption scandals involving rogue officers, who were selling goods and drugs to inmates. 

The heat was too much for top prison warders, who were asked to deal with the menace.

“We were under pressure to execute the orders fully. As I was collecting phones from both wardens and inmates, a colleague, who was not impressed with the idea reached for her gun, fortunately, another colleague stopped her before she could pull the trigger,” she said. 

Matter attracted a disciplinary action but Momanyi opted to solve the matter amicably and things went back to normal. 

Beside’s her near-death experience, Momanyi said hers was a wonderful career. 

Several projects

In 2017, she was promoted to the Officer in-charge of Nakuru Prisons and she decided to take the opportunity to try and address some of  the challenges convicts endure. 

“I decided to initiate several projects with the help of well-wishers and the government to improve the lives of prisoners,” she said. She first engaged well-wishers, who agreed to build a perimeter around the Nakuru Women’s Prison. 

Later, the well-wishers then set up  a day-care and a bakery within the prison. 

Asked why she opted to have a day-care at the institution, Momanyi said she had noticed that there was a huge number of mothers with children at the facility.

“This really touched me as I saw women struggle between taking care of their babies  and various chores within the prison.

For that reason, I engaged the well-wishers, who also built the day-care that  can now accommodate 100 children,” she said. 

The well-wishers also chipped in and bought 250 beds and also issued other personal items, which include; bedding, towels and blankets. 

She said that it is through the experience she gained at Lang’ata Women Prisons that it was easier for her to maneuver.

She partnered with a number of organisations in Nakuru that include Faraja Foundation, Kameme Kayu Kamwingi and a local-based PCEA church. 

It is through the same organisations that Momanyi now aspires to go on serving in the prison department even after her retirement last week. 

She is proud that she has served for over four decades and left the service without any court cases, which could have easily tainted her career. 

Asked what were some of the challenges she faced in the line of duty, Momanyi  said working away from  young children saw her quit the service but she later found a solution to it. 

“I want to tell those in the career to be patient and plan well because if they make wrong decisions then they will affect their future within the service,” she said. 

More on News