The School of Graduate Studies, Research & Extension holds colloquium on the effect of prison on the future behavior of children of incarcerated mothers at Langata Womens Prison in Nairobi, Kenya

By Millicent Tatendaishe Mudiwa and James Williams

On October 25, 2023, the University's campus was abuzz with intellectual fervor as it hosted a thought-provoking colloquium that delved into the intricacies of an impactful research project. Dr. Simeon Sungi, the Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, and a distinguished scholar, presented their findings on the profound Research topic, "The Effect of Prison on the Future Behaviour of Children of Incarcerated Mothers at Langata Women's Prison in Nairobi, Kenya." The colloquium was an engaging platform where the scholarly community, students, and faculty members gathered to gain insights into the pressing issue of maternal incarceration and its repercussions on children. The study was a testament to the University's commitment to research excellence and the importance of understanding the complexities of the justice system and its social implications.

At the heart of the research were the stories and experiences of children whose mothers were serving sentences at Langata Women's Prison. Dr Simeon Sungi, who spearheaded the research, explained that this topic was of paramount importance as it highlighted the often-neglected collateral consequences of incarceration. The main reason why Dr Sungi was interested in this aspect was the whole idea of how children are the hidden victims of the Criminal Justice system and how they are deemed invisible, unseen, and unheard.

The study aimed to comprehend the challenges these children face and to uncover ways in which society and the justice system can better support them. With Dr. Sungi, were his two students in their final year of the B.A. in Criminal Justice studies Millicent Mudiwa and James Williams, the dedicated research assistants, played a pivotal role in the data collection period of the research by conducting interviews, collecting data, and analyzing the narratives of the children from their mother's perspectives. Their dedication and hard work were evident as they formulated the comprehensive data, which included the children's emotional, psychological, and educational well-being and the experiences of the incarcerated mothers.

One of the standout elements of the colloquium was the involvement of Clean Start Africa, an organization dedicated to supporting women and children affected by incarceration. Respondents from Clean Start Africa, including the organization's Director, Ms. Theresa, were present, and they shared their valuable insights. Clean Start Africa played an instrumental role in the research through the respondents who gave valuable insights regarding their experiences, this was done through qualitative data analysis, and group interviews.

The research findings highlighted the challenges faced by children of incarcerated mothers, such as stigmatization, emotional trauma, and difficulties in accessing education and healthcare. Some of the major findings from this research included even aspects of how the children mimic the socialized prison way of living, including the salutes to the guards and even getting used to the regular contraband strips or search sessions. The research also illuminated the need for comprehensive support systems, both within the prison system and in society, to ensure the children's well-being and prospects. Dr Simeon Sungi emphasized the importance of community-based programs and initiatives to provide essential resources to the children and their mothers during and after incarceration, despite acknowledging and valuing the preexisting law which was enforced in good faith in the persons deprived of liberty’s act of 2014 under section 22. Ms. Theresa’s presence and contribution underscored the critical role of NGOs and advocacy organizations in effecting positive change in the lives of those affected by the criminal justice system.

The colloquium concluded with a stimulating discussion that highlighted the need for reforms in the prison system and the importance of breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Dr Simeon Sungi left the audience with a profound understanding of the challenges faced by children of incarcerated mothers and the urgency of addressing this issue. The University's commitment to research and collaboration with organizations like Clean Start Africa serves as a beacon of hope in raising awareness and finding solutions to complex societal issues. The colloquium was not just a moment of intellectual exploration but also a call to action, reminding us of the importance of empathy, compassion, and social responsibility.

As we reflect on the insights gained from this remarkable colloquium, it is evident that the research conducted by Dr. Simeon Sungi and his team is a crucial step toward creating a more inclusive and compassionate society for the children of incarcerated mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. We hope that this research will continue to inspire change, both within our university community and beyond, in addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by these children.

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