“We have got challenges with plea bargain agreements. We are being ambushed in the courts to sign them."
(Credit: Maria Wamala)
KAMPALA - Prisoners have cried out to the Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, saying they are being ambushed and forced to sign plea bargain agreements.
Without stating the allegations in detail, Wilson Obote, a prisoner at Luzira Upper prison, said they are waylaid on their way to court and made to sign the agreement, owning up to the offences they are charged with and confessing them.
"We have got challenges with plea bargain agreements. We are being ambushed in the courts to sign them. We ask you to make sure we are made to sign those agreements here in prisons and not courts," he said.
Before being given the chance to speak, the prisoners had been hushed from speaking openly with the officer in charge, Moses Ssentale, telling them that their challenges had been given to Justice Bamwine and his team at a closed-door meeting.
But itching to say something, Obote, urged by his fellow inmates, edged forward to hurriedly outline their issues.
"We want you the judges to consider personal litigation statements, especially those with serious ailments such HIV/AIDS when passing judgments. Get our medical reports and use them during sentencing," he said.
He stated that the inconsistencies of sentences handed down on inmates in similar case facts need to be harmonised and the sentence made uniform.
Obote asked the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) to reign over errant police officers who torture suspects to extract the confessions they want.
Justice Bamwine (second-left) attended the training on plea bargaining at Luzira
Other issues raised include return of suspects' property confiscated by police as exhibits, delayed trial, delayed stay on remand and fabrication of charges by police.
On his part, Ssentale noted that although the inmates have challenges, they have remained disciplined and co-operative with the authorities.
"Inmates have had issues and we have discussed them in a closed meeting with the principal judge. We spoke about the problems they face here ranging from arrests and forced confessions, appeal, long remand time to ministers order. We hope for help on the problems," he said.
Robert Munanura, the commissioner in charge of imprisonments, said Luzira prisons is too congested, with inmates sleeping ‘body to body'.
Currently they have a total of 52,317 inmates which is twice the prison capacity of 1,500.
Read more here >> Police blamed over congestion in prisons