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MPs call for construction of mini-max prison in Mbarara

Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Dr. Johnson Byabashaija touring maize farm at Lugore Prison in Gulu District in 2019.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament on the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee have asked the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development to prioritize funding the construction of a mini-max prison facility in Mbarara District.

The recommendation is contained in the Committee’s report on the National Budget Framework Paper for the Financial Year 2024/2025 submitted to the Budget Committee of Parliament for scrutiny on Wednesday.

Wilson Kajwengye, the Committee Chairperson and also the Nyabushoozi County Member of Parliament explained that a new max prison facility estimated to cost 18 billion Shillings is urgently needed to address the congestion at Mbarara Main Prison.

Available statistics from the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) indicate that as of 2024 the population of prisoners stood at 77,316 far above the approved capacity of 20,996, implying an excess of up to 56,320 prisoners resulting in lack of sleep, lack of privacy, and poor hygiene practices among inmates.

“Congestion in Uganda’s prisons is attributed to delayed justice from the Judiciary and slow pace in increasing the holding capacity of prisons. Gov’t needs to enhance access to justice through prisons’ alignment to courts of law and timely production of prisoners to court,” Kajwengye reasoned.

Sheema Municipality, Dicksons Kateshumbwa agreed with the Committee report wondering why people who have gone to prison on remand continue to stay beyond their sentence timeline calling for urgent action to make sure inmates are released from detention facilities after serving their sentence.

While appearing before Parliament’s Internal Affairs Committee in December 2023, Elly Muhumuza, Commissioner of Planning and Development, Uganda Prisons to update the the MPs on the 2022/23 financial and physical performance proposed the construction of 16 new regional mini-maximum prisons across the country.

Muhumuza told MPs that inmate congestion has left some facilities accommodating a population that is 5 times higher than the designed capacity, adding, that whereas Uganda’s population growth rate is at 3 percent, the population in prisons is growing at 8 percent.

Each mini-max prison costs around 102.9 billion, while three lower security prisons require 24 billion. Currently, there are 16 proposed prison regions and the plan to construct at least one prison is intended to accommodate at least 4000 prisoners.

Prison authorities are also grappling with feeding challenges with a daily average of 81,729 prisoners on their feeding programme. Each inmate is fed at an estimated 5,000 Shillings per prisoner per day.

During the Financial Year 2022/23, food arrears for prisoners stood at 158.94 billion Shillings. However, the Ministry of Finance tabled in Parliament a supplementary budget of only 79 billion Shillings was provided to offset the arrears leaving a shortfall of 79.943 billion.

The Uganda Prison Service also faces several other budget shortfalls.  In the 2023/24 financial year, the entity requested 8.574 billion to procure blankets but only one billion was appropriated leaving a shortfall of 7.574 billion. Additionally, the budget 8.574 billion for the prisoners’ mattresses remains unfunded.

Although each prison’s staff is entitled to at least two pairs of uniforms with accessories and protective gear, currently, each has only one pair without any protective gear. This item requires 5.702 billion but only 3.330 billion was released creating a 2.372 billion funding gap among others.

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