To address the congestion in prisons, Speaker, Anita Among, has called on lawmakers to prioritise improvement of the facilities by appropriating sufficient funds in the 2023/2024 financial year budget.
Among, who was presiding over the House on Thursday, 16 November 2023, said that she was informed by the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons that out of every 100,000 Ugandans, 168 end up in prison.
“All the prisons are full; they have no space. As we budget, we should be able to think about infrastructure in prisons, not only Luzira but countrywide,” she said.
James Kaberuka (NRM, Kinkizi County West) however said that focus should also be put on tackling the high unemployment of youths, saying that majority of prisoners are youths who are forced into criminal activities.
“In addition to amplifying infrastructure improvement, there is a need to critically analyse how we can have the youth being busy in productive activities, locally and internationally. It is a political issue but if we continue looking at it as normal, then we are going to have criminality increasing,” Kaberuka said.
He also suggested empowering of youths after they are skilled under the skilling Uganda programmme.
“The influx of youths from villages to Kampala hoping to have remedy is futile. We need to have the youths engaged,” he said.
Busia Municipality Member of Parliament, Geofrey Macho, welcomed the need to improve the prisons’ infrastructure but said that government should create an enabling environment for youths to own and sustain small and medium enterprises, as a way of keeping them away from engaging in crime.
“Most of the small businesses are operated by foreigners, denying our young people opportunities and they end up committing crimes since they do not have what to do,” Macho said.
Felix Okot Ogong (NRM, Dokolo South County) decried the appalling state of prison facilities and acknowledged the need to improve them, but he was quick to suggest establishment of a bank for youths to tackle high crime rate.
He recounted a proposal he made while Minister of Youth in 2006.
“As a minister, I came up with 52 cheap enterprises that do not require a lot of money and we proposed that with those enterprises we get a youth bank because they do not have enough collateral and it was viable,” he said.
The Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (Industry), Hon. David Bahati, said that several measures have been put in place to address youth unemployment including commercialization of agriculture, industrialization and service sector.
“As we pass policies, we should focus on these strategic areas because they are key in creating jobs and growth of the economy,” he said.