How Justine’s Family is Creating a Gutted Man

Your teen son has been in prison for the past one year. Luckilly, his complainant has agreed to drop the charges. What happens if you fail to turn up in court? Read how Justine’s family is creating a gutted man and find out more.

the making of one more gutted man
Male teen offenders whose family fail to turn up in court suffer the most (Photo: Ye Jinghan/ Unsplash)

“It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

About four months ago, *19-year-old Justine Makhokha brimmed with joy. He had just come back from a court session at the Kibera Law Courts. It turns out that his complainant had agreed to drop charges, on one condition. The complainant requested Justine’s family to pay the full amount that Justine stole from her.

Justine was so confident that he was going home. As a result, he asked us to prepare his computer studies certificate. Being one of our Lifesong Kenya’s best performing students this year, we were delighted. Little did we know that Justine’s joy and impending freedom would soon turn into a nightmare!

Three court appearances later, it was apparent that Justine’s family was not going to turn up in court. His dad works out of town and cannot get time off. The only relative Justine has in Nairobi is also not available to appear in court.

Our staff members have tried all they can to get Justine’s family to come to court. However, they have not been willing to do so. Justine soon became a shell of his former self. He soon realized his freedom wasn’t going to happen as he had anticipated.

How Justine’s Family is Creating a Gutted Man

How Justine's Family is Creating a Gutted Man
Employable skills alone cannot fully heal and reconcile boys who are in conflict with the law unless their families are fully invested int the whole process

One day, Justine asked to speak with me after one of our sessions.

“I am going to plead guilty,” he said. “My fate is in the hands of God and the person who I stole from. I hope the judge gives me a lighter sentence,” he added.

“Okay,” I replied, without knowing what to say and how best to say it.

“Can I ask for a favour?” he asked, after a brief silence.

“Go ahead,” I replied.

“Would you please come to court?”

“Yes, I will be there,” I promised.

“Thank you, Teacher James,” he smiled.

“Welcome and see in court,” I added, spreading my arms wide for a hug.

On July 15, 2019, I arrived in court.

For the past 4 months, Justine had been brimming with confidence. ON that day, he was resigned to what the judge had to say. He knew his family wasn’t there. He also knew that the complainant was no longer coming to court. His shoulders hang loose.

The frayed jumper he was wearing barely hugged his sunken shoulder. He did not bother with rectifying it. In a court where the people closest to him wore smart suits, Justine stood out like a sore thumb. It was a sure sign of a gutted man. Only time would tell how this would eventually affect him as a man, husband and dad in the near future.

A long walk towards prison sentence

Without turning his head in my direction, he scanned the court room. I knew he saw me. But he did not crack a smile or nod. He just stood there and stared into the space. Luckily, the court case lasted for 5 minutes. As our Justine stood waiting, the prosecution consulted in hushed tones. At the end, the judge read the ruling.

“You’ve been sentenced to serve 4 months,” he said, addressing our boy.

The officer accompanying Justine, whispered something to him. It was time to go. But Justine did not flinch a muscle. He just stood there. 30 seconds later, an Indian lady started walking towards the docks. It was time for another case.

“Did you not understand what I said?” the judge asked our boy.

The officer gently nudged Justine in the ribs. He gently took Justine by the elbow and led him back tot he holding cells. Justine turned to his left and shuffled towards the holding cells. My work for the day should have ended there.

However, I thought Justine needed a male adult, besides the officers. Perhaps, it would help him make sense of what had just happened. AThe fact that his dad, uncle or any other family member wasn’t there, is enough burden to cripple a young man’s well-being, self-esteem and confidence in upholding family values.

I waited to see him.

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