The head prison chaplain in Kenya has applauded President Mwai Kibaki’s decision to commute the death sentences of some 4,000 prisoners, punishing them with life imprisonment instead of death by hanging.
Murder, illegal possession of dangerous weapons, robbery with violence and treason are capital offenses in Kenya. While convicts are still sentenced to death by the courts, no one has been hanged in the country for 22 years, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports.
In his Monday announcement of the sentence commutations, President Kibaki said that the decision does not suggest the abolition of the death penalty.
Fr. Peter Kimani, head of the Catholic Prisons Chaplaincy, said he welcomed the move “because there are many inmates who are innocent who could have suffered death.”
He told CISA that the death sentence is not a solution to crime and said the penalty should be abolished because there is no one who could not reform their life.
The Kenyan president justified his decision by saying a prisoner’s extended stay on death row causes undue mental anguish and suffering, psychological trauma and anxiety. It may also constitute inhuman treatment.
As the law does not allow death row prisoners to be gainfully utilized by prison authorities, he added, the practice leads to idleness and has a negative impact on prison discipline.
President Kibaki directed all relevant government ministries and departments to study whether the continued existence of the death penalty has any value or impact in the fight against crime.