Prisons worry over increased number of female inmates

The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija. PHOTO | FILE

The Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service, Mr Johnson Byabashaija, has expressed worry over the increasing number of female inmates across the country.

Mr Byabashaija indicated that in the last 10 years, there has been an increase of 125 percent of female inmates, and that the number has increased from 1,591 in 2013 to the current 3,585 inmates. 

He noted that of the 3,585, about 39 percent are charged with murder, and 15 percent are charged with house breaking, theft, child trafficking, and assault, among others. About three percent are charged with aggravated robbery, while the rest are on different cases.

Mr Byabashaija also noted that two of them are condemned inmates and about 10 are on life imprisonment and others on remand.

Rights to justice
He revealed this during the opening of a three-day regional conference on the right to justice of affected women in Kampala yesterday.

The conference is under the theme: “Unlocking barriers: Rights of women in the criminal justice systems in Africa.”

Mr Byabashaija expressed concern over congestion in the prisons, which he said has led to rampant cases of diseases such as Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B among the inmates.
“We have a policy that all the women are entitled to beds. We might not be meeting it but that is our policy. Even when they are in prison, they are mothers of the nation. We can’t handle them the way we handle the other inmates. It is very terrible to see mothers congested, mothers need a lot of space to accommodate the children and themselves,” Mr Byabashaija said.

Mr Byabashaija noted that in addition to the increased number of female inmates, there are also 268 children incarcerated with their mothers.

He suggested that although they are offenders, the Judiciary should look at them as mothers of the nation and have different considerations. 

Ms Jane Frances Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), attributed the increase in female inmates to poverty, increased cases of domestic violence, gender-based violence and ignorance.
“Most of the women there are on murder cases. If you took interest in their stories, most of them

were in reaction to a long history of suffering violence. So, just one incident sparked it off,” she said.
She explained that there is need for sensitisation to prevent the cases other than dealing with the post-mortem.

Mr Simeo Nsubuga, a commissioner at Uganda Human Rights Commission, said there is violation of human right in some prisons, saying female inmates are entitled to beddings, which is not the case in some prisons.