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Fatal attraction: When love between prisoners turns deadly behind bars

3 min read

On March 3, at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison, a vicious fight broke out among five inmates in cell C33 Block 6, leaving three of them nursing serious injuries.

The violence was intense, the reason for it bizarre.

During the night incident that could have easily turned fatal were it not for quick action by the alert guards, the aggressor, armed with an improvised knife, stabbed two of his colleagues and badly battered the third one, dislocating his shoulder.

The two who were stabbed were rushed to the Naivasha Sub-County Hospital where they were treated and discharged. The third victim was admitted to the prison’s facility.

While the matter is still under investigation, what they were fighting about has been kept out of official police records, but sources disclosed to the Nation that the reason had something to do with illicit sexual relationships among the men.

Discussed in hushed tones behind the highly secured gates, illicit coupling between inmates is nevertheless rampant especially among those serving lengthy sentences. The sexual bonds, a source revealed, are so strong that fights over infidelity are common.

“This is an issue that we have dealt with in the past but the recent fighting served to publicise it,” the insider said.

Two other prisoners have been killed in similar incidents. About five years ago, a prisoner stabbed his lover to death, accusing him of cheating.

“The victim was showered with gifts, including extra rations, but his unfaithfulness provoked the anger of his partner,” an officer who witnessed the incident said. The jilted prisoner, he said, used a sharpened spoon to stab his lover, killing him on the spot.

Still, in 2015, another inmate, who accused a fellow inmate of betrayal, smothered his ”lover” to death.

The ”jilted lover” is said to have lured his ”partner”, who was serving a 10-year jail term for indecent assault, to their shared cell before suffocating him to death last Wednesday.

The lunchtime incident escaped the attention of hawk-eyed prison officers who were making arrangements for the more than 2,000 inmates to have their midday meal.

The killer, who had on several occasions requested to be transferred to Kisumu to no avail, surrendered himself after the act.

“He said he had taught his lover a lesson,” said a prison warder. Prison authorities frown upon homosexual liaisons behind bars and culprits are often punished.

“All the cases brought to the attention of the authorities have always been dealt with according to the law. Those found guilty are often held in isolation for the rest of their terms,” an officer says.

Naivasha Sub-County Probation Officer Joel Kamau says that in 2015, he had a candid talk with a homosexual inmate who confessed to having sold his inherited parcel of land to pay a Sh300,000 bride price for his lover.

He came clean on the issue, Mr Kamau narrates, stating that his lover’s relatives gladly accepted the “bride price” as the two love birds unofficially got married behind bars.

“I was astonished. I had interacted with a number of them due to the nature of my work,” but a confession of paying bride price “was the strangest thing that I ever encountered,” he said.

Mr Kamau, a trained counsellor, blames the rise in homosexuality to long sentences that lead to frustrations among the inmates and engender anti-social behaviour.

He says the government should engage experts to counsel inmates serving long sentences.

Due to the stigma associated with the practice, “the inmates involved are so guarded that prisons officers will only hear of such a case after it turns violent like in the recent incident,” he says.

Mr Kamau adds that definite sentences will also help in addressing the anguish and uncertainty associated with life sentences and the death penalty. 

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