The profile of recidivists in Kenya: The case of prisoners at Nairobi county prison institutions

Authors: John Onyango Omboto, Gidraph G Wairire and Mike Chepkong’a

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: PhD (Nairobi), Lecturer Criminology and Security Studies, Egerton University, Kenya; BSW (Osmania) MA (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) PhD (Pune), Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Nairobi; BA MA PhD (Nairobi), Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Nairobi
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 33 Issue 3, p. 708 – 730


Recidivists are chronic, multiple or prolific offenders. They continue to commit crimes regardless of punishment. Recidivism is a worldwide problem which has persisted over the years. A University of Nairobi study conducted in Nairobi County, Kenya on the linkage between punishment and recidivism which involved recidivist prisoners at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and Langata Prison; male and female institutions respectively, sought to, among others, analyse the broad characteristics of recidivists in the two institutions. The study purposively selected a sample of 167 participants, and collected data by use of questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Both quantitative and qualitative techniques were utilised in data analysis. The study established that the majority of the recidivists are males, and young adults or individuals in middle age who are either illiterate or semiliterate. They are also not in marital relationships, and are members of the lower social classes among other characteristics. This paper presents a literature review on challenges facing prison institutions in Kenya, causes and control strategies of recidivism among prisoners, general socio-demographic and personality characteristics of recidivists, and the study findings on the profile of the recidivists in Kenya.