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MPs probe prisoners’ prolonged stay on remand

Suspects and convicted persons in a prison. MPs have probed Uganda Prisons Officials over the prolonged remand of suspects without trial (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Legislators on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today grilled the officials of Uganda Prisons Services over the prolonged stay of prisoners on remand without trial.

This followed revelations in the audit reports raised by the Auditor General that painted a grim image into the time prisoners stay, with findings indicating that some prisoners have been on remand for more than 72months.

In the details provided, prisoners committed to High Court are 9,845 of which, 46 of these have been in prison for more than 72months and the highest number 3,042 have stayed between 13-24months.

On the other hand, prisoners who have committed capital offences are 3,099 with most of them having been on remand for more than two months while those rotting away for committing petty crimes are 13,788 with over 10,285 having been on remand 10,285 bringing total to 26,704 of inmates in the June 2016 report.

During the year, Uganda Prisons had planned to provide a total carrying capacity of a daily average of 16,517 prisoners.

However, at the time of the audit, an inspection was carried out on a sample of stations which revealed that the population of prisoners as of August 2017 stood at 49,900 exceeding the available capacity by 33,383 inmates putting the occupancy level of prisons at 260%.

The Commissioner General of Uganda Prison Service, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija. Uganda Prisons Services bosses on the edge as MPs demand an explanation to the continued remand of suspects without trial (FILE PHOTO)

The auditors expressed concerns over the prison population noting that most of the prison wards are overcrowded, with some having been found housing up to at least four times their designed holding capacities.

As such, the congestion in prisons has resulted in poor hygiene, the outbreak of diseases and strikes in prisons at the prisoners continue to compete for little resources.

The Justice Law and Order Sector’s Strategic Investment Plan III, UPS is committed to having inmates to have better access to justice and lives in a safer and secure environment and more responsive to human rights and reduce the length of stay on remand from 30.3months to 15.1 months for capital offences and from six to 4.4 months for other offences.

However, a review of prisons records showed that 4,598 prisoners each being fed at Shs3,000 per day have been on remand for more than two years that saw Government spent Shs5,034,810,000 per annum on feeding.

At last year’s audit, a total of 1,325 inmates out of 4,374 were on remand for more than two years with Auditors warning that having inmates on remand for more than two years without trial is a violation of prisoners’ rights to trial which denies them timely justice as a result, resources are wasted to that effect.

MPs warned the prison authorities against the prolonged stay of prisoners on remand arguing it violates their rights.

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