Samuel Akena, Assistant Commissioner General of Prisons, highlights the severe issue of prison congestion in Uganda, labeling it a major human rights concern.
Speaking at a national public dialogue in Kampala, Akena reveals that as of December 11, 2023, Uganda’s prisons, designed for 20,000 inmates, held a staggering 77,089 prisoners.
Akena attributes the congestion primarily to remands, emphasizing the challenge of dealing with such overwhelming numbers.
He underscores the need to revisit the prolonged remand periods, questioning the fairness of extended detentions, especially for those awaiting judgment.
Akena challenges the practice of imprisoning individuals unable to pay loans, deeming it counterproductive for both the individuals and the prison system.
He argues that the funds allocated for a six-month imprisonment cannot sustain an inmate for even three weeks.
Out of the total prisoners, 39,784 are convicted, while 36,786 are on remand, further exacerbating the congestion issue.
Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera acknowledges the pressing need for human rights protection and promotion.
He sheds light on cases where individuals remain in prison due to an inability to bribe their way out, emphasizing the critical role of judicial discretion in granting bail.
Justice Buteera stresses the importance of sensitizing judicial officers to exercise their discretion judiciously and advocates for increased visits to prisons to better understand the challenges of congestion.