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

Specific population

The UPS recordkeeping is considered unsteady and unreliable. The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija said the prison population stood at 48,689 inmates as August 2016. This figure represents a 15.4% increase of the total prison population in only two years. In fact, prison population has grown over 30% in the last ten years.
However, the country’s population showed an accelerated growth rate during that same period1, which means that the incarceration rate did not increase as dramatically as the prison population; it went from 92 in 2000 to 115 in 2015.

55% of inmates served pre-trial detention as of July 2014, according to the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS).

The prison system has an approved carrying capacity of 16,612 prisoners. The occupancy rate stands at over 293% as of October 2016. Severe overcrowding concerns male, female and juvenile detention facilities. The Attorney General’s 2014 report found that five prisons showed occupancy rates of over 500% (Kisoro 906%, Ntungamo 720%, Kabale 651%, Rukungiri 530%, and Gulu 508%).

Pretrial detainees are separated from convicted prisoners only in Kampala. According to the UPS, 91 juveniles were held in adult prisons in 2014.

In Luzira Maximum Security Prison, in Kampala, inmates wear different uniforms according to their status: yellow corresponds to sentences below 20 years, orange is for those sentenced to a higher period of time. A red stripe is added to uniform if an inmate tries to scape and a blue one to seniors. Prison leaders wear a white armband. Psychiatric patients are in green uniforms. Death row inmates are dressed in white2.

  1. Population of Uganda rises by more than 10m people” in The Citizen, 03/26/2016 

  2. The prison were murderers play for Manchester United” in The Guardian, 03/15/2015 

Pre-trial detainees

55 %

/ World Prison Brief

The female prison population is held in over 110 facilities. Thirteen of those are female only prisons. Some small prisons in rural areas are poorly equipped and do not offer separate facilities for women, including separate cells.

Luzira Maximum Security Women’s Prison in Kampala was hosting 405 women by the end of 2014 1. Women in Luzira are convicted for capital offences. This prison houses over 38% of the total female prison population in the country.

Luzira offers a variety of activities such as a beauty parlor, sewing, basket making and arts and crafts workshops. It also provides women with different courses, including a Common Law course from the University of London -sponsored by African Prisons Project (APP)2 3 4.

Pregnant women can either receive prenatal care inside prison or are referred to the nearest government hospital. 235 babies were in prison with their mothers as of August 2015. Infants can stay with their mothers up to four years old. After that age, children of female prisoners are taken to a daycare located in near the prison and see their mothers on Sundays.

Some prisons offer day-care facilities. Some others, mostly local prisons, still face difficulties providing for basic amenities, food and medicine. The UPS does not provide enough sanitary products (toilet paper, sanitary towels). Volunteers and family members are the ones in charge of the supply. Some NGOs provide assistance to children of the prisoners, such as Wells of Hope.

According to a report published by the Foundation for human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and Penal Reform International, many of the women in jail were victims of sexual abuse and/or domestic violence and 45% were convicted for manslaughter.

Female prisoners

4.4 %

/ World Prison Brief

Number of female prisoners



The age of criminal responsibility is 12 years old. Most children do not have a birth certificate so age is determined by subjective criteria such as appearance or the parent’s statement.

The Uganda Police Annual Crime Report 2014 registered 1,779 juvenile offenders, held in six detention facilities. The five remand homes, for those awaiting trial, are Fort Portal, Gulu, Mbale, Masindi, Arua, or Naguru. The Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre hosts sentenced minors. Sentences can go from three months to three years. In practice, due to lack of space, juvenile can be held in adult detention facilities. The UHRC counted 42 juveniles serving their sentence with adults in 2015.

Gross overcrowding is observed in juvenile detention centers. The Naguru Remand Home, with an approved capacity of 45 children, was holding 180 in August 2015. According to the Daily Monitor, the National Rehabilitation Center, designed to accommodate 150 juveniles, has host up to 340.

Most juveniles are charged for defilement, which is an “offence against morality” (sexual activities under the age of eighteen). Street children can be held in juvenile facilities, even if they have not been charged with an offence.

Remand homes do not offer training program. They propose religious guidance, counseling and games. In the National Rehabilitation Center, children can enroll in activities such as carpentry, electronics, farming and plumbing workshops, organize by NGOs1.

Children face difficulties keeping family ties since there are few juvenile detention facilities in the country and only one is destined to sentenced offenders. According to an article published in the Daily Monitor, some minors in the Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre have been abandoned by their parents.

Since children are coming from all over the country, one of the main obstacles they face while in the detention is the language barrier. The Daily Monitor adds that cells are in a poor state, children are forced to work and subject to ill-treatment if they refuse to do so.

  1. Uganda: Do Remand Homes Rehabilitate Children?” in All Africa, 06/17/2016 

Juvenile prisoners

4.2 %

/ Ugandan police annual crime report

About 0.4% of Ugandan prisoners are foreign nationals as of 2016, according to the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF).

Most common nationalities are Pakistani, Nigerian and Burundians. Foreign detainees get assistance from an interpreter at police stations and courts but not in prison.

Most foreign nationals are isolated from their families because the prison staff cannot read their letters. Guards claim dealing with the dilemma of balancing foreign national prisoners right to receive letters and phone calls in their own language and respecting safety procedures inherent to the penitentiary system.

Foreign prisoners

0.4 %

/ African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Number of foreign prisoners


/ African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

The Ugandan government enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act on December 2013. The Constitutional Court ruled the Act invalid on procedural grounds a few months later. The first draft of the bill included a death penalty clause that was later substituted by life imprisonment. Homosexuality, of men or women, is punishable for up to seven years of imprisonment under the Penal Code Act.

Men accused of homosexuality are forced to undergo anal exams. Human Rights Watch considers this practice a form of torture.

There are at least 11 people awaiting trial for homosexuality in Uganda according to the blog Erasing 75 crimes. The website tells the story of Grace Akello (Charles Okello) who is in Nakarunya Prison awaiting her trial. She was accused of misleading men into thinking she was a women and charged with “being a common nuisance”.

Number of LGBTI prisoners


Kizza Besigye, the main political opposition leader, was arrested and accused of treason, on May 13 2016, after being sworn president. The ceremony aimed to defy the presidential election results that gave president Yoweri Museveni as winner, but were considered opaque by international observers. He stayed in Luzira for two moths and was released on bail. Mr. Besigye has been arrested 34 times in the past five years du to his political involvement as opposition leader1.

Other members of Kizza Besigye’s party –Forum for Democratic Change– were arrested during the election period, and were either held for short periods of formally prosecuted for crimes such as terrorism, inciting violence, treason and holding illegal meetings. For example, Norman Tumuhimbise, leader of the opposition group Jobless Brotherhood, was arrested on August 19 and held in a secret location, without access to a lawyer for six days.