By Umaru Kashaka
Some MPs on the human rights committee have proposed that Government considers privatising prisons in order to improve conditions in the detention facilities.
While meeting officials from Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) led by chairperson, Med Kaggwa, over the 15th annual report of 2012 yesterday, MPs noted that the need to improve the welfare of in-mates in prisons had remained a challenge for the Government due to congestion, feeding, healthcare and the often slow pace of prosecution caused by the backlog of cases.
“We should have a third party that is contracted by a government agency to detain the offenders and pay a monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility. This has worked well in countries like Mozambique and many others,” Betty Nambooze, the Mukono Woman MP, said before adding, “This will be cost-saving for the Gov’t and it will also reduce on congestion.”
The Lira Woman MP, Joy Ongom, said: “Our prisoners are sleeping packed together in tiny cells throughout the night and the situation is so pathetic. They are sleeping on one shoulder, so that, if prisoners need to roll over, they have to coordinate with dozens of other prisoners in their cell to do it all at the same time.”
The proposal was however, opposed by UHRC saying it will lead to the exploitation of detainees by private companies.
“I wouldn’t support that (privatization) because private companies will exploit the situation to make money. They will force in-mates to go out and work even when ill because they want to make money,” Kaggwa told the committee chaired by the Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka.
He urged legislators to ensure that the laws that are passed do not violate human rights standards which the Government has committed to safeguard.
Meeting the same committee to discuss the 2013/14 budget recently, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, the commissioner Prisons Services said problems like congestion and the use of buckets by prisoners to ease themselves inside the cells could not be solved with the current funding.
He said the use of buckets is the only solution in the absence of modern toilets in the cells.
The Prisons budget allocation this financial year amounts to sh86b, against a projected budget of sh200b. This leaves a shortfall of sh114b to cater for mainly feeding, transport of prisoners to court, staff accommodation and farming.