The government ought to adopt effective systems relevant to the country, especially that we are faced with overcrowded prison conditions and limited budgetary allocations to run prisons.
According to the recent report from the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI): “Justice delayed is Justice denied,” prisons are holding perhaps as high as three times the official capacity.
Noteworthy, 52 per cent of the prison population constitutes pre-trial detainees, contributing to the extreme and steadily growing congestions.
Prisons currently operate at 312 per cent of the official capacity, imposing immense burden on the efficiency of the Uganda Prisons Service. This has led to outbreak of diseases and making it easy to spread any infections, detrimental consequences, poor overall living conditions. Pretrial – detainees are also more likely to be tortured than convicted prisoners, primarily to extract a confession, following a UHRC statistics indicating Uganda Police Force as the main perpetrator of torture in Uganda.
Furthermore, when the express fine is scrapped off, it will intensify the lengthy detention of individuals awaiting trial which will severely affect their livelihood, leaving them and their families vulnerable to impoverishment. The absence of express traffic fines will further amplify the violation of the 48-hour rule leading to a lengthy pre-trial detention at police, which is the highest reported human rights violations countrywide, despite the appointment of legal human rights officers, who are mandated to monitor compliance with human standards in police conduct. Nonetheless lengthy pre-trial detention greatly affects the accused, making them vulnerable to human violations, not only of the right to liberty, but also freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment/punishment.
We should however admit that there is a category of offenders, who should be incarcerated in order to protect society.
Persons who commit serious offences such as murder, rape, robberies committed in circumstances of aggravation etc, deserve incarceration; on the contrary, traffic offences should be resolved with an express penalty scheme/on spot traffic fine system, which can be administered to improve the social economic conditions of this country.
The rationale of the above is to embark on programmes to punish traffic offenders but at the same time ensure that they are kept out of prison/police.
Isabella Bwiire,
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative