Collins is a young husband and father in Kenya, and he has been in a Nairobi prison for nearly two years, charged with a crime he did not commit.
IJM supporters around the world shared Christmas cards and letters of encouragement with Collins last year, and IJM Kenya's team of lawyers and social workers have provided direct support to Collins and his family waiting on the outside.
Yesterday, Collins' IJM lawyer, Wamaitha Kimani, went by the prison to tell him we believed he might get out on bail today. "He nodded and said thank you and goodbye. Then he came back again and asked me to repeat what I had just said to him," Wamaitha pauses, then adds, "When I repeated and he understood my words, he touched his heart a couple of times, said the Lord bless IJM, and he spoke very little after that."
Today, Collins is going home.
IJM Kenya Legal Assistant, Samuel Karanja, delivered more than a thousand letters and cards that IJM supporters worldwide sent to Collins last year.
Collins told IJM supporters: "Your love for me is excess!"
An Innocent Man Framed
Two years ago, Collins was working his shift as a night guard at a small shop. He remembers the small group of police officers that showed up and arrested him with hardly any explanation.
Collins would later learn that one of them had been robbed; the officer lost his police radio, a valuable item that could cost him his job if he didn't find someone to blame fast. Collins was charged with Robbery with Violence, a serious crime with a mandatory life sentence in Kenya.
A recent government study of police performance shows that Collins' story is not unusual. In nearly two-thirds of the felony criminal cases reviewed, men and women were being tried for crimes despite the fact that the police did not have even the minimum amount of evidence to charge them in the first place.
Scores of innocent men and women are being framed for crimes that did not commit. This means innocents like Collins will spend months—if not years—behind bars, waiting for their trial to conclude. Since the state does not have to supply a lawyer, nearly all those charged with crimes are left to defend themselves, sometimes having to stand before a judge who does not even speak his language.
IJM's lawyer Wamaitha has been representing Collins in court since last year. The trial has dragged on, with many hearings delayed or postponed for a host of frustrating reasons, but it should be ending soon. IJM will continue to advocate that all charges against Collins be dismissed and that his name be cleared once and for all.
An Entire Family Impacted
The impact of Collins' sudden, arbitrary imprisonment has been devastating for his family. His wife, Nancy, and two children were dependent on his wages to buy food. He missed the birth of his baby boy last summer.
His family was forced to leave their home in the city and move back to Collins' parents' rural village, 250 miles away, just to survive. They have only been able to visit a handful of times.
A Joyful Homecoming
When the court declared that Collins could leave prison on bail on December 19—after nearly two full years behind bars—the IJM team drove him first to see his father. When Collins stepped out of the car and approached his father; according to Wamaitha, "His shock was palpable. Then it turned to joy."
They took Collins back to his old neighborhood, and friends and relatives embraced him, laughed with him and broke out into spontaneous prayers for what they thought would never be possible.
"Throughout, Collins would move from a dazed look to laughter to thanking God. He is a very prayerful young man. He was commonly referred to in remand as "the preacher," Wamaitha shares.
"Today was truly an exciting day," Wamaitha adds, explaining that her own faith has been strengthened by Collins. "He said only God could have made this possible. That strangers whom he did not know before last year would do so much for him. It is God's doing."
You can defend an innocent prisoner. Will you give a gift to help other fathers come home?
International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.