By Petride Mudoola
The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija has blamed the criminal justice system for the increasing congestion in prisons.
According to Byabashaija, Uganda Prison Services has a congestion rate of 250%, which he says calls for immediate interventions to ensure “effective management of detention facilities countrywide.”
The Prisons boss was at the opening of the African Commissioners of Prisons Executive meeting held at Speke Resort Munyonyo last week.
The meeting was aimed at enhancing collective efforts to deal with challenges facing penal systems in Africa and overcoming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“Prisons are overcrowded because criminal justice systems are not deposing of cases in time. If cases are deposed of and criminals either released or sentenced, Prisons would merely accommodate convicted prisoners, hence minimize congestion,” Byabashaija observed.
He noted that 52% 0f the inmates are awaiting trial while only 48% have been convicted, and appealed to the agencies that deliver justice to harmonize their activities to ensure that there is faster dispensation of justice.
Besides violation of the prisoner's rights, congestion leads to transmission of communicable diseases among prisoners since prison lacks isolation facilities for those with serious ailments such as tuberculosis, Byabashaija argued.
He pointed out the increasing number of convicts serving long sentences as another challenge contributing to congestion.
Upper Prison singly accommodates 1266 convicts serving long term sentences. Of these, 420 inmates are on death row and another 242 convicts each serving a life imprisonment.
One person was sentenced to 310 years in prison and another 70 years. Two detainees are serving 65 years each, 19 prisoners are serving 50 years each, 45 convicts each serving 25 years and 37 inmates are serving 40 years each.
Despite the increasing rate of prisoners serving long sentences, the Ministry of Public Service has not considered recruiting more staff to match the growing population. As a result authorities are strained by the escalating prisons population.