Members of Parliament on the Committee on Human Rights are concerned about the way inmates are paid after they have offered manual labour outside the prisons.
The legislators raised the concerns while meeting officials from the Uganda Prison Service. The meeting on Tuesday, 26 July 2022, chaired by Fox Odoi Oywelowo was meant to discuss the recommendations in the reports from the Uganda Human Rights Commission for the years 2018-2020.
In one of the recommendations, the commission recommended that the prisons authorities revise the payment to the prisoners as stipulated in the Prisons Regulations.
The Prisons Regulations 2020 provide that, ‘a prisoner on earning scheme shall be paid gratuity at the rate of Shs8,386 for the first month worked and thereafter, Shs2,795 per month or part of it’.
Busongora North Member of Parliament, Sowedi Kitanywa wondered how the money prisoners earn by offering labour to private farms is handled.
“If someone is remanded and he does work on private farm, do these funds go to the prisons authorities or given to the prisoners? Where do the funds go?” Kitanywa said.
Kibaale District Woman MP, Noeline Kisembo Basemera asked how the money made by prisoners is distributed.
“How much do you charge the clients who are taking the prisoners so that we know how much the prison services take?” Basemera asked.
The Assistant Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service Samuel Akena said that the rates are not standard but vary from place to place.
“If you asked for Shs10,000 in Karamoja, no one will be able to give it to you but if you asked the same in Kampala, people are willing to even pay more,” he said adding that, ’whatever rate it is, there is a fraction that goes to the prisoners, the staff who escort the prisoners and the other portion for the general administration of the prisons’.
Fox Odoi Oywelowo asked Akena why they were paying prisoners a lower rate than the market price. He recommended that for clients who were willing to pay shs10,000 and above, the fraction that goes to the prisoner should be revised accordingly.
However, Ibanda Municipality MP, Tarsis Rwaburindore said that the prisoners who do the actual work earn less than what they should be getting. “I have been hiring prisoners for Shs5500. Then people who escort them get Shs20,000 per head, the ‘katikiros’ get a packet of cigarettes and an extra Shs5,000, he said.
MPs suggested the money earned should be paid directly to the prisons bank account for better accountability and systematic follow up.