The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, has told judicial officers and prosecutors that Uganda has the highest percentage of inmates on remand in East Africa.
This, according to the prisons boss, has caused congested prison facilities. Currently Uganda has 52 per cent remand inmate population against the 47.1 per cent, who are convicts.
“Rwanda just here in the neighborhood has 7 per cent of the remands, Tanzania has 45 per cent and Kenya has 35 per cent, so why would Uganda be the only East African country with inmate remand population of more than 50 per cent,” Dr Byabashaija said yesterday during the third annual plea bargaining conference in Kampala.
According to the Prisons statistics, there is a total of 55,724 inmates across the country and 3,616 have been on remand for a period of between two-three years without being tried, a scenario Dr Byabashaija said was very absurd. “Can you imagine somebody being on remand for a period of more than five years…Jesus Christ..” he exclaimed.
He called on those involved in dispensing justice to embrace the new justice system, ‘plea bargaining’ that gives suspects a chance to get lighter sentences after pleading guilty, which he said tremendously reduces prison congestion.
“Why I want more convicts is that I take them to farms to do work for me and yet with the pre-trial detainees, we spend lots of money on them like about Shs15b to feed them, we have to transport them to courts..,” he said adding “That is why plea bargaining excites me and I wish it could continue at a faster rate.”
Dr Byabashaija gave an example of Kisoro prisons in western Uganda, currently with inmate population eight times more than its holding capacity. The prisons boss also revealed last month, there was a total of 55,724 inmates across the prisons.
But during the plenary session, Supreme Court Judge Eldad Mwangusya, warned that plea bargaining programme should not be the only method to decongest the prisons.
Justice Mwangusya advised that constitutional rules governing release of suspects on bail should be strictly followed as one of the methods to decongest the prisons. He explained that there are a number of inmates who are supposed to be out on mandatory bail after spending the six months period on remand without being committed for trial but are still languishing in jail.