Inmates at Kamiti prison have been linked to some of the kidnappings reported in Nairobi and its environs.
Investigations by police found that the inmates were involved in at least five kidnapping incidents in the last two weeks. One of the victims, a woman, was killed by her captors.
Mr Patrick Isaboke, the deputy in charge of Kamiti Maximum Prison, added that the inmates also sent out many of threatening messages received by members of the public on short messaging service (SMS).
In the last four days, a search in some of the blocks unearthed more than 600 mobile phones and about 5,000 SIM cards.
“We also found knives, cigarettes and electric cooking coils,” said Mr Isaboke.
The inmates on Thursday staged a protest after the search, which started on Saturday.
The prisoners, who were to report for work at the prison industries, absented themselves as they engaged warders in running battles in which at least four inmates were injured.
At one point, the officers were overwhelmed, forcing them to seek reinforcement from other prisons and the Prisons College in Ruiru.
“Yesterday’s search was conducted at Block D where 2,144 SIM cards, 80 mobile phones, seven electric coils, earphones and knives were found.” Mr Isaboke said.
“we could not immediately establish the owners since all the inmates had been removed from the cells before the search began. “
“There has been an outcry from members of the public that some criminal activities were being coordinated from the prisons. This prompted the search,” Mr Isaboke said.
On Saturday, a similar search was conducted in the prison cells and 406 phones, 1,085 SIM cards, 160 phone batteries, 3,500 rolls of bhang and 19 electric coils were found. Similar items had been seized on Monday.
Sources told the Nation that Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku ordered the search after investigations into a kidnapping revealed that the plan was co-ordinated from Kamiti.
Prison warders are also on the spot after searches found hundreds of mobile phones which inmates have been using to co-ordinate the crimes.
“Some prisoners are never punished when they are found with these contraband items. Room leaders are warders’ eye in the cells,” said a junior officer who sought anonymity.
Even though the officers are supposed to thoroughly search all inmates, reports indicate that some of the warders collude with the prisoners to sneak in contraband items into the correctional institution.
Sources said prison warders sell the phones to inmates and at times engage in financial dealings with prisoners or their friends and relatives.
The phones are reportedly sneaked in by senior officers who are rarely screened while entering the institutions. They then hand them over to the warders in charge of the blocks.