“We came up with this programme so as to address the high remand population in the prisons."
PIC: A tutor from the University of London takes inmate Law students through a lecture at Luzira Upper Prison. (Credit: Petride Mudoola)
KAMPALA - Luzira inmates are acquiring legal knowledge to progress their cases in a bid to realise justice through self-representation.
The Annual State of Access to Justice Report of 2018 conducted by Laspnet, a legal service provider, indicates that with a prison population of 54,049 inmates, the remand prisoner population stands at 51.7%.
“We came up with this programme so as to address the high remand population in the prisons," says Florence Banoba, the program co-ordinator of African Prisons Project.
"We did this after realising that many prisoners do not have access to affordable legal services."
Banoba, while officiating at the launching of the Justice Change Maker Project at Luzira Upper Prison recently, the programme also offers scholarships.
"The programme is aimed at empowering inmates with legal knowledge by offering scholarships to study for law degrees through the University of London International Programme and auxiliary paralegals to offer basic legal advice to inmates on criminal matters," she said.
Frank Baine, the prisons' publicist, said the number of people ending up in jail is ever rising.
"Whereas the national population is increasing at a rate of 3.4% per annum, the prisoner population is rising at a rate of 10% per year.
"Over the last five years, the prisoner population has grown from 31,263 to 51,886," he said.
Baine added: "This high growth rate erodes the gains in expansion of prisons infrastructure in terms of sleeping space, and the ratio of staff to prisoners."
“The current prisons carrying capacity is for a daily average of 16,612 prisoners. However, as of March 31, 2017, the population behind bars was 51,886 - exceeding the available space by three times."
Although they were convicted and jailed for breaking the law, three Luzira inmates were not deterred from pursuing a career in law.
Two of them were discharged. Pascal Kakuru, the third inmate law graduate, is due for release in 2019.
Kakuru's commitment and hard work identified him as an ideal candidate for the University of London’s International Programme. He became the African Prisons Project’s first student to be awarded a law degree in September 2017.
“As a graduate assistant to the prison-based APP Law Degree Tutors, I am capable of supporting fellow inmates to handle criminal cases to ensure that no one faces criminal prosecution without legal aid,” he said.
Sylvia Namubiru is the executive director of Laspnet.
She says that although Government has made progressive steps by enacting laws that protect the right to access to justice, the legal and institutional framework has been impacted by a number of factors, such as corruption.
These, according to her, are undermining the right of citizens to access to justice.
According to the 2018 report, land matters formed the highest justice issues at 44%, criminal matters at 24% and domestic violence at 17%.
As many as 69% of justice seekers were satisfied with Alternative Dispute Resolution because it is associated with less costs of litigation.
The survey reveals that 62% of the respondents were ignorant about the procedures required to seek a remedy.
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