43 year-old man released after spending six days in jail for stealing sh40 cabbage

43 year old Robert Kihara outside Eldama Ravine Gk prison in Baringo county after he was released on June 27,2017.Kihara had been convicted for two months for stealing a cabbage from Mercy Mission Hospital and could not raise a fine of Sh 10,000. Journalist Saddique Shaban and other well wishers assisted him .Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard

A man who was sentenced to two months in jail for stealing a cabbage worth Sh40 from a mission hospital was released yesterday.

Robert Kihara, who pleaded guilty to the charge of theft, was sentenced to two months imprisonment after he failed to raise a fine of Sh10,000.

Cabbage dinner

Kihara was found stealing from the Mercy Mission Hospital vegetable garden by security guards on June 21 and arraigned in court on June 22.

He pleaded guilty to the charges before Senior Resident Magistrate Rhoda Yator and told the court he had planned to cook the cabbage for dinner.

The court gave him two options: a Sh10,000 fine or two months imprisonment. Kihara failed to pay the fine and the magistrate sent him to jail, where he stayed for a week before well-wishers bailed him out.

Narrating his ordeal, the 43-year-old casual labourer at Mercy Mission Hospital, said he decided to harvest one cabbage for dinner when he finished weeding the vegetable garden.

“I did not know it was wrong until I was stopped by a security guard. They drove me to the police station,” he said.

Kihara said he thought his brother, Francis Mugo, who is in charge of the mission hospital, would come to his rescue, but the priest neither called nor visited him in the cells.

Kihara, who says it was his first time to be held in a police cell, said he tried to convince the police to release him, in vain,

“Cells were not friendly. I was ordered to remove my shoes and hand over mobile phone. The police warned me against arguing with them while in the cell. I had to comply,” said Kihara.

On June 2, he said he cried before the court after he was sent to prison, pleading for leniency.

“I was worried about my fate because of the ‘bad’ stories I have heard from inmates about what happens in prison,” he said.

Life at the prison was not easy for the casual labourer. He quietly endured a persistent severe headache for the six days that he stayed behind bars for fear of getting punished.

Kihara said he had left the prison a changed man. After six days behind bars, he has learnt one crucial lesson: never to take other people’s property, however small, without permission.

Invaluable lesson

“Prison has taught me to respect other people’s belongings,” said Kihara.

Prison warders said he was a disciplined inmate and obeyed orders promptly and without protest.

“Kihara has been here a few days but he has been obedient. We are happy to see him leave and join his family,” said an officer who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak for the prison.

Bemih Kanyonge, an advocate who led a team of well-wishers to bail out Kihara, said the public should be sensitised on alternative ways of seeking justice for petty crimes.

Petty offenders

“The public should understand alternative methods of finding solution to various crimes,” he said.

Media personality Saddique Shaban, who helped bail out Kihara, called for non-custodial sentences for petty offenders.

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