How the New Arrival to Prison Took Me Back

I realized I had a lot to thank God for on our way to juvenile prison. It had rained Thursday night – and it was still pouring as we drove to prison – and I was grateful I had the car. Otherwise, Elisha and I would have walked in the rain, rainwater and mud. Elisha and I don’t mind walking. However, doing so in rain and muddy rain water isn’t something we enjoy doing.

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The morning was fresh and new. The road was as usual, busy with every driver and rider wanting to arrive where they are going in a hurry. We reach the Thika Highway and happy that traffic is moving swiftly. I have to cope up with the constant hooting, cutting in and out of traffic lanes, reckless overtaking and motorcycles that seem to be flying from my blind side and across the road without any warning. I have to grasp the wheel and stomp on the brake with all my might.

Fortunately, and by the grace of God we manage to arrive at the prison in one piece. We have arrived earlier – one and a half hours and this being so we wait at the reception, a few paces from the gate. We hear a knock on the metal gate and watch as a female guard walks to open the gate. A few minutes later, a boy – probably aged 15 or 17 – walks accompanied by a policeman.

He smacks his cracked green lips and runs a green coated tongue across them as he does all he can to wipe as the pouring sleets of rain from his face. He is wearing torn pair of dirty jeans, dirty faded black t-shirt, jumper and he arrives in prison with no shoes. As he sits next to us – and to my left – my heart shakes with pain and compassion. I would like to assure him that he is in the right place.

The confused and pained look in his eyes – eyes that are going to see a lot more behind bars – looks down at his muddied feet. His fingers hug each other as the handcuffs keep holding his hands together. I suddenly remember the time my hands were in handcuffs in 2005 when Mustapha and I were being transferred from Makongeni Police Station to Buru Buru Police Station. It was 2 am and while the driver and his companion drove the car on the wrong side of the road, Mustapha and I sat at the back of the car.

I was shaking and my teeth were chattering from two things. I was scared and felt the cold bite through the thin shirt and pair of socks I was wearing. I also felt scared having discovered that my belt had been picked up at the OB Desk by a departing inmate. I had found it difficult to hold onto my falling and extremely sagging pair of jeans having lost my belt.

A trip into the chambers of hell

We arrived at the Buru Buru Police Station and were dumped into the one of the cells. My heart sank in fear the moment the doors clung shut. A stout menacing man approached me, way before I could register my new environment. He grabbed me by the chest and pushed me to the rattling metal door. His breath hit my face as I felt his poking and probing fingers navigate through the pockets of jeans.

“Hello new man,” he greeted, all the while probing inside my pockets and grabbing my buttocks. “Did you bring any money with you?” he asked.

“No, I left everything at the OB Desk,” I replied, as innocent as they come. “I have nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?” he barked looking into my eyes.

It was then that I realized he was missing one eye. I almost laughed out loud. He, all of sudden, looked like a badly made-up Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I was just about to laugh when I remembered I was in a police cell and not at home watching a movie with George Ongere.

The next two days I spent at Buru Buru Police Station were not as rough as my welcome party had made me believe. It was at the cell where I met a Christian writer who reminded me that perhaps, God had ‘engineered’ my arrest so I could learn vital life lessons. What made it unacceptable to me was how he mentioned and referred to what happened to Joseph in the Bible.

What he said next didn’t make sense to me. But before I regained my freedom, I made up my mind to reach out to boys in prison. And there we were – three men – the boys inside of us trying to come to terms to what was about to happen to the 15 year old new entrant at the prison. We gathered enough information from the conversation the police officer had with the prison warden at the reception.

“What did this fella do?”

“He was caught stealing a neighbour’s mirra.”

As Elisha and walked towards the hall where the boys waited for us, I kept thinking about the African village that is supposed to take care of one child at a time. As miraa farming and farmers in Meru are bound to benefit from the money President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to pump in miraa farming, a 15 year-old boy arrives in juvenile prison, having indulged his desire to satisfy his craving and not knowing what lies ahead. I take note and promise to look out for him on my next visit to prison.

“You show up and give me the one thing a man in my situation shouldn’t have… Hope.”

– Lincoln Burrows

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