Uganda Prisons transfers inmates over congestion

Inmates in Luzira Prison

The Uganda Prisons Service is transferring inmates across the country to reduce congestion in the jails.

Two weeks ago, over 100 prisoners were moved from Luzira Maximum Prison in Kampala to prison facilities in eastern Uganda to decongest the country's main prison.

However, Uganda Prisons spokesperson, Mr Frank Baine says the exercise has affected all prison facilities in the country. 

 "The transfer of prisoners is happening in all units. Looking at only Luzira would be narrowing the story," Mr Baine said.

He says there are 290 prison units housing 55,784 inmates countrywide. The number of prisoners has been increasing over the years.

In 2014, the inmate population stood at 40,526 but has since increased to over 15,000 inmates in the last three years.

Mr Baine says at least 8,500 inmates are being held at Luzira Prison, a jail that was constructed to house 3,000 detainees.

Most prisoners from Luzira have been taken to Kitalya Prison, in Wakiso District which has a capacity of 1,500 inmates. A mini maximum prison is being constructed at Kitalya to further decongest Luzira.

Mr Baine says hard-core prisoners would be transferred to Jinja, Nakasongola, Kitalya and Kigo prisons.

He says population growth, urbanisation, political campaigning and improvement in law enforcement are some of the key factors leading to the rising number of inmates.

 When President Yoweri Museveni visited Luzira Prisons in April, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, said Uganda has the highest percentage of inmates on remand in East Africa.

He said 52 percent of inmates are on remand compared to only seven percent in Rwanda and 45 percent in Kenya.

Mr Baine says it is only an effective justice system that can help his institution reduce the number of inmates.

"If the justice moves fast, maybe these people on remand can win cases and get released. They should also explore different justice systems like plea bargaining," he said.

Plea bargaining is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecution and accused persons whereby the suspect agrees to plead guilty in exchange of some concession from the state.