John Byabashaija, the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) has described the increase in the remand population as undesirable.
Byabashaija disclosed this while appearing before the Internal Affairs and defense committee of Parliament on Monday to discuss the Uganda Prisons policy statement and 2013-2014 financial year budget.
According to Byabashaija, the remand population has increased from 52 percent in the last financial year to 55.4 percent this year. As a result, the congestion level has gone up from 231 percent to 239 percent. He explained that some prison facilities across the country currently accommodate up to 8 times their capacity.
Byabashaija revealed that currently there are 35,565 inmates, which exceeds the available capacity by 20,657 inmates. He said the overall population growth in prisons is 8 percent since June 2012, which not matched with expansion of prison capacity that expands at 5 per cent.
Byabashaija noted that this poses a challenge in separating different categories of offenders to break the cyclic chain of crime and violence. Byabashaija told the committee that constructing 5 very low security prisons per year at shs 3.8bn requires 19.0bn and that only 3.5bn has been provided leaving a shortfall of 15.8bn.
The internal affairs committee questioned the prisons strategy to decongest prisons and accord inmates a decent living. Byabashaija said that one of the strategies is the relocation of Kigo prison to construct a 6,000 capacity correctional facility under the Public Private Pattern ship arrangement at Kasanje.
He added that they are also looking at relocating Luzira Prison complex to build a 10,000 capacity prison. Byabashaija also noted that they are embarking on the expansion of regional prisons starting with Gulu, Bushenyi and Mbarara.
Meanwhile, apart from the increased population and congestion in prisons, Byabashaija also said they are faced with low staffing and high levels of desertion.
The current level of custodial staffing is 5,548 against the required 11,908. He said they require at least 6,360 more staff members. He explained that the last recruitment of staff was done in the Financial Year 2010/2011 and since then the service has lost 390 staff but they have not been replaced.
Byabashaija noted that some stations have less than 3 staff to manage three shift systems citing Sembabule. He said as a result of under staffing, staff are unable to take annual leave, sick leave, shifts and others.
Byabashaija said their request to conduct recruitment in the last two financial years was rejected by Ministry of Public Services.
Makhoha Margret, the Namayingo District woman MP proposed that UPS introduces procedures of letting in those who want to join the force and release those who want to leave. Makhoha said that this in some way will reduce the number of officials deserting.
Mike Mukula, the Soroti Municipality MP attributed the problems faced by inmates to inadequate funding. He said unless more funds are allocated to Uganda Prison Services, the problems will not go away. He suggested a sector to sector approach with the Internal Affairs and Finance Ministries with a view of increasing budget allocation to prisons.