Are Prisoners in Kenya Paid 20 Cents per Day for Their Labour?

In a video posted on June 24 (see below), a prison official is seen showcasing a piece of furniture made by inmates at the Taveta prison.

Strong sentiments have been expressed on social media as the video went viral.


The story of the convertible garden chair went viral after a video, posted on June 10, showing a local carpenter, Stephen Odhiambo, and his colleague was widely shared on social media.

In an interview, the carpenter said that he had gotten the idea from the internet with orders increasing after the video went viral. The two carpenters have since become internet celebrities and recently met with Deputy President William Ruto at his official residence in Karen.

This led to other videos of similar creations in the country.

However, following the sharing of the video showing one of the creations as the work of inmates at the Taveta prison, the matter of the welfare of prisoners, especially the compensation for such work, has come under renewed focus by the online public. As have the squalid conditions in prisons and the abuses inmates have to endure while serving their terms.

One of the claims making the rounds is that prisoners in Kenya are paid a measly 20 cents per day for their work.


According to Section 5 of the Kenya Prisons Service standing orders, a prisoner is to be paid a maximum of 20 cents per day and a minimum of 10 cents per day depending on the allocated grade of the prisoner.

Prisoners are allocated grades A, B and C, depending on their skills and conduct. Skilled prisoners with exemplary conduct are ranked as grade A, while semi-skilled prisoners are ranked as grade B. All other prisoners are ranked as grade C. The Kenyan constitution mandates that grade A prisoners are paid 20 cents per day, grade B prisoners 15 cents daily while grade C prisoners get 10 cents per day. This law has not been changed since 1979.

This has led to complaints with some Kenyans comparing it to modern-day slavery. This is despite the high-quality products they make, such as furniture, fetching premium prices in the market.

A court case filed by 3 ex-prisoners on 2015 against the Kenya Prisons Service was dismissed in 2019 with the Constitutional Court stating that the law could only be amended by an Act of Parliament.


The claim that prisoners are paid Kshs 0.20 per day for their labour is therefore TRUE.


Photo: Al Jazeera

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