Mbabazi Mariam, the head of female inmates at Mbarara main prison told a team of judicial officials led by the Chief Justice, Bart Katurebe on that they plead guilty hoping to get lighter sentences, but they are instead slapped with heavy punishments that have started scaring them away from plea bargaining.
Inmates at Mbarara main prison have complained
to the Chief Justice Bart Katurebe about the heavy punishments they are given
even after opting for plea bargaining. Under plea bargaining an
accused person pleads guilty to the case against them or a lesser offense in exchange
for a lenient sentence.
The judiciary introduced plea bargaining in the Ugandan justice
system to help reduce the case backlog and decongest
prisons. However, some inmates claim they handed heavy punishments,
which are contrary to the spirit of plea bargaining.
Mbabazi Mariam, the head of female inmates at Mbarara main
prison told a team of judicial officials led by the Chief Justice, Bart
Katurebe on that they plead guilty hoping to get lighter sentences, but they
are instead slapped with heavy punishments that have started scaring them away
from plea bargaining.
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She also appealed to Katurebe to increase
the number of high court sessions from one to either three or four in a year as
a way of decreasing the number of remand inmates and release innocent victim
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However, in her response, the
Principal Judge, Dr. Flavian Zeija explained that punishments are determined
based on the weight of the offense the suspect is pleading to.
“You see the sentence to all cases is
determined by the weight of ingredients in the case as we give the judgment. We
don’t expect you to kill your relative intentionally and expect a lesser
sentence because you have pleaded guilty,” he said.
Samuel Akena, the Director Correctional Services under Uganda
Prison appreciated the reduction in the number of remand inmates for the last
nine years noting that in 2019 the number of convicts was higher compared to
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The Chief Justice, Bart Katurebe noted that prisons should
have more convicts compared to remand inmates and those waiting for the
judgment of their appeals. He however, blamed the status quo the limited number
of judicial officers.
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The Chief Justice, who was officiating at the
opening of the hands on training and case preparation in plea bargaining at
Mbarara Main Prisons, urged inmates to embrace plea Bargain, saying it can
deliver justice within the shortest time possible.
He however, warned the innocent
not to plead to cases they didn’t commit just because they want to serve and
return home in the shortest time possible.
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Mbarara Main Prison has up to 2032 inmates. 1057 are on
remand waiting trail or Judgment while the remaining 975 are convicts.