Contributor(s)Fondation for Human Rights Initiative | Prison Insider

Contact with the outside world

Relatives must request an authorization before they visit prisoners. In practice, they are only turned away if the inmate refuses the visit or if they do not respect visitation schedules. There are no conjugal visits.

Penal Reform International notes that prisoners can be transferred to prisons located far from their living places. Family visits become rare due to travelling costs and the stigma associated to prisons. The report adds that “a number of the prisoners interviewed have not been visited by their family with most of them barely knowing where their children live and constantly worrying about their children’s well-being1.

The Prison Act 2006 made it possible to benefit from a sentence reduction of one third in reward for good behavior.

A remission can also be granted by the President via the Commissioner General of Prisons.

Prisoners sentenced to more than three years of imprisonment and serving the last six months of it can request a release on parole.

It is possible to be release by pardon or clemency. The Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) must summit a list of candidates to the Attorney General for approval. Only inmates that have already received a formal sentence are eligible. Humanitarian grounds are the most common reason, followed by the elderly (above 54 years old), pregnant women, sick prisoners, petty offenders, among others.

Free legal aid and speedy trials are stated as rights under the Ugandan constitution. Prisoners have a right to meet their lawyers face to face. In practice, the State provides legal assistance mostly for capital offences and lawyers tend to ask detainees for money in other to work on their cases. The involvement of state lawyers in public defense tends to be unsteady due to corruption and lack of legal expertise.

High occupancy rate are link to dysfunctions in the criminal justice system. A report published by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) lists a number of them: lack of transport, judicial officers being absent at court, failure of prosecuting authorities to present witnesses, defendants’ inability to provide sureties, and failure by police to conduct timely investigations1.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) drafted a new case management system in 2015. It will decentralize the treatment of case file, by assigning judicial officers outside Kampala. In the framework of this policy, 80 state attorneys were hired and assigned to different regions of the country2.

  1. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Penal Reform International, “Who are women prisoners? Survey results from Uganda”, 2015 

  2. New system to ease court case backlog” in Daily Monitor, 03/25/2015 

Uganda has not signed the Optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishments.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) monitors human rights compliance within prisons. A section of the UHCR annual report it dedicated to prison conditions. It monitored 896 detentions facilities in 2015.

UHCR is accredited with an “A” status by the International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.