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Govt seeks shs97bn to feed prisoners, build mini-max jail

Kampala, (UG): The Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs has indicated that the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) requires Shs79.973 billion to cater for outstanding arrears accrued for prisoners’ feeding and Shs18 billion for the construction of a mini-max prison in the country.

Committee chairperson Hon. Wilson Kajwengye, said this while presenting a report on the National Budget Framework Paper for Financial Year 2024/2025, before the Budget Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, 17 January 2024.

According to the committee report, the daily average of 81,729 prisoners is fed at Shs5,000 per prisoner per day, including food from prison farms.

“A supplementary budget of Shs79 billion was provided to take care of arrears that stood at Shs158.94 billion as at Financial Year 2022/23, hence leaving a shortfall of Shs79.943 billion.

Hon. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi (Indep., Bardege-Layibi Division) tasked the committee to provide information on how much food UPS produces from their farms.

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He noted that in response to a 2022 food crisis in Karamoja sub-region, the UPS and Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces were given money to scale up food security.

“In 2022, Uganda Prisons was given 19,200 acres of land on Aswa Ranch. It would be good for the Chairperson to inform us on how much Prisons was able to use from this land and the money that was given to them,” Ojara Mapenduzi said.

He also noted that the Uganda Media Centre reported that the Uganda Prisons was utilising only 5,000 acres of the 45,000 acres owned at Lugore Prison Farm in Gulu District, saying the land is not being put to good use.

Legislators also queried the need to establish more prisons’ facilities across the country.

According to the committee report, a recommendation was made for prioritisation of funding worth Shs18 billion for the construction of a mini-max prison in Mbarara District, to check on the congestion at prison facilities.

Kajwengye said that by January 2024, the prisoner population stood at 77,316, yet Uganda Prisons has an approved capacity of 20,996, implying that 56,320 prisoners are in excess of the approved capacity.

He attributed the congestion in Uganda’s prisons to delayed justice from the Judiciary and slow pace in increasing the holding capacity of prisons.

“There is need to enhance access to justice through prisons’ alignment to courts of law and timely production of prisoners to court by procuring transport machinery, among others,” Kajwengye said.

Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) noted a need to examine how much of the congestion is attributed to delayed justice before setting up new prison facilities.

“We have people who have gone to prison on remand and stayed beyond the time for which they were sentenced. There must be action to make sure people are out of prison if they do not need to be there,” Kateshumbwa said.

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Hon. Ronald Kanyike (NUP, Bukoto County East) recommended that there ought to be a funding component to support refresher courses for Police officers.

“Police officers need capacity building to improve their investigations which will in turn check on the rising numbers of the arrested individuals in prisons,” Kanyike said.

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