By Moses Walubiri
As Uganda Prisons Service grapples with a sh8b in its feeding budget, Internal Affairs Minister and the Commissioner General of prisons want the judiciary to help reduce congestion in prisons.
With over 50% of inmates on remand, prison boss, Dr. Johnson Byabasaija and Minister Hillary Onek contend that the inability of the judiciary to clear case backlogs is largely responsible for the congestion in detention facilities.
“The judiciary is very inefficient. There is a lot of corruption and nothing seems to work. A lot of people spend more than a year on remand, eating into our budget, and then get acquitted. This is compounding congestion in prisons,” a visibly riled Onek told MPs on the Defense and Internal Affairs committee on Wednesday.
The same sentiments were echoed by Dr. Byabasaija. “I wish prisons could hold more convicts than people on remand. This would reduce the overcrowding in prisons,” he said.
According to prisons data tabled before the committee, 18,086 people are languishing on remand in different prisons around the country, compared to 15,437 convicts as of June this year.
Ugandan prisons, according to Byabasaija, have excess 18,474 inmates. This has seen congestion levels increase from 221% to 217% despite a reduction in time spent on remand from an average 15 to 14 months over the last one year.
In this financial year, Sh13.9b has been earmarked for feeding inmates, with an estimated sh6b from prison farms set to compliment the budget.
However, prison services require Sh28b to feed inmates that are expected to hit the 34,200 mark, according to Byabasaija.
The deputy vice chairman, Simon Mulongo, promised to summon the Minister of Justice and Director of Public Prosecution to explain incidents of case backlogs.
Meanwhile, government is set to upgrade and expand regional prisons in Mbale, Gulu and Mbarara so that convicts with long sentences can serve their sentences in their regions of origin.
This will be one of the interventions to reduce congestion in prisons, especially at Luzira maximum prison.
Onek was leading a delegation from Uganda prison service to defend their budget projection for this financial year.