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Govt seeks sh102.9 billion to construct new prisons

Inmates at Patongo Prison in Agago District, Northern Uganda. Copyright: © David Brunetti

Kampala, (UG): Government through the Justice Law and Order Sector is seeking sh102.9 billion to construct new prisons in various parts of the country.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Robert Kasande says that congestion in prisons is a big issue that lies at the centre of the country’s criminal justice system.

He adds that whereas the national population growth rate is three per cent per annum, the prisoners’ population growth rate stands at 8 per cent per annum.

According to Mr Kasande, the statistical modelling projects indicate that the prison population is likely to increase to 153,145 prisoners by 2031/32 with a corresponding holding capacity of 29,371. Based on this projection, he says, it is inevitable to construct more facilities such as regional mini-maximum security prisons.

Kasande made the remarks Friday at the launch of the Joint Government of Uganda_ Development Partners’ Access to Justice (JLOS ) Sub Programme Annual Performance Review Report held in Kampala.

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There are currently 266 prisons in the country, which are collectively keeping 76,432 inmates, far above the holding capacity of 21, 000 inmates, according to Prison Spokesperson Frank Baine. Most of these are criminal cases as seen in the Judiciary’s Annual Performance Report released in October 2023.

Despite these congestion levels in prison, the JLOS Program report shows that the percentage of Pre-trial detainees has decreased by two per cent as compared to rates in 2021/2022 which stood at 50.8 per cent. The report attributes this to case disposal rates by the judiciary which also increased by eight per cent in the same financial year to 63 per cent.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Norbert Mao has advised people who have committed crimes not to waste court time but to opt for mechanisms such as plea bargaining that have been put in place to ease the path to justice and reduce congestion in the judicial system.

He has also appealed to judicial officers to consider community service sentences for small offences as a way of decongesting prisons.

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The report shows that re-offending has witnessed a notable reduction while public confidence in the justice system remains at 70 per cent. It shows that the use of the Automated Fingerprint Information System helped to identify 3,266 repeat offenders and 219 people with criminal records seeking certificates of good conduct.

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