The Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service, Johnson Byabashaija has told lawmakers that prisons across the country will continue to grapple with congestion if the sector’s budget is not prioritised.
Byabashaija, together with the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Gen. David Muhoozi, and representatives from the Uganda Police Force appeared before the Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday, 04 July 2023 to respond to queries on the state of human rights and freedoms in Uganda for 2022.
Byabashaija said that whilst the population of prisoners across the country has risen to 76,248 in 2023, the budget for the Prisons Service has retrogressed.
“Congestion in prisons has to increase, inevitably. The occupancy rate last year was 360 percent against this year’s 373 percent. The space of one person is now occupied by four people. This is the reality,” Byabashaija said.
Byabashaija added that the budget for food, maintenance, and clothing has not been increased in the 2023/2024 financial year.
Byabashaija requested the MPs to allocate Shs10.8 billion towards the construction of prisoners’ wards, fitted with water closets in the remaining 27 prisons.
His response was prompted by a concern raised by Sironko District Woman Member of Parliament (MP), Hon. Florence Nambozo who singled out the congestion in Kitalya maximum security prison in Wakiso district, saying that the situation there is appalling.
“Inmates sleep back to back and wait for the bell to ring to turn. People are now saying that they prefer to be killed than go to prison,” Nambozo said.
Meanwhile, Committee Vice Chairperson, Hon. Jennifer Mbabazi asked Byabshaija to address allegations of shared facilities by adult prisoners with juveniles.
“We should not let this matter pass without it being handled. Children cannot share prisons with adults,” said Mbabazi.
Byabashaijja assured the MPs that there are no juveniles in the adult prisons, explaining that all juveniles are sent to remand homes.
“Court does not send juveniles to adult prisons, some slip through police and the judiciary during age determination and up in adult prisons,” he said.