Prisoner Rehabilitation in the Uganda Prison Service

Master's Thesis, 2014

117 Pages, Grade: 40.0 credits

Free online reading

Table of Contents


1.0. Introduction
1.1. Why this Research?
1.2. Research Approach
1.3. Prison as a Community
1.4. Chapter Breakdown

2.0. Policy framework
2.1. Historical Background to the Prison System in Uganda
2.2. Emerging Legal and Policy Framework for The UPS
2.3. UPS Operational Framework
2.4. The Uganda Prisoner Population
2.5. Conclusion

3.0. Literature review
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Rehabilitation of Prisoners
3.3. Human Rights and Correctional Practice
3.4. Conclusion

4.0. Methodology and research design
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Key Questions
4.3. Study Sample
4.4. Research Design
4.5. Data Collection
4.6. Data Management and Analysis
4.7. A Note about Ethics
4.8. My Experience Researching in Uganda’s Prisons

5.0. findings and discussion
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Background to the Prisons Visited
5.3. Understanding of the Concept of Rehabilitation
5.4. Policy Underpinnings to Prisoner Rehabilitation
5.5. The Nature of Prisoner Rehabilitation in the UPS
5.6. Discussion

6.0. Conclusion

7.0. conclusions and recommendations
7.1. Summary of the Main Research
7.2. Important Observations
7.3. Characteristics of the Prison Population
7.4. Recommendations


I would like to acknowledge several people without whose support this research, and indeed the whole Masters Program would have been impossible to complete

To my supervisors, Eluska Fernandez and Rosemary Meade for steering me towards independence of thought and decision-making, asking the critically difficult yet important questions, and taking time to read literally every page of my often ‘mumble-jumbled’ writing, I can never thank you enough.

I am grateful to the Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service for granting me permission to conduct this research. I applaud all my respondents for being available to share their knowledge and experiences with me, and fill in information gaps up to the last day of this research process. What would I have done without you? This research would not have happened without your contribution.

I acknowledge with gratitude the Irish Aid for financing my Masters Program at the University College Cork, and the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) for facilitating my acclimatisation to Ireland and the moral support that enabled me to concentrate on the course.

To all my colleagues, the “Ugandan Crew” in Cork: Robert-Roy, Beatrice, Kashubs, Peter, Sr. Alice, Julie, and MGA, thank you for the much-needed ‘feel-at-home’ atmosphere that propelled us to strive for excellence. MGA, thank you for the final and very useful proof reading.

I would also like to acknowledge the support of my mother and siblings: Alys, Eleanor, Joel, and Segawa for taking care of my babies while I embarked on this beautiful journey.

Last but certainly not least, I dedicate this book to my family: Lyzbet, Victor, and Charles for weathering the storms in my absence.

List of Acronyms

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1.0. Introduction

1.1. Why this Research?

This research focused on the nature of rehabilitation provided to prisoners in correctional facilities in Uganda as offered by the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS). The specific objectives of the research were to: map the kind of rehabilitation programs provided to prisoners; clarify who provides them and how they are organised; and, to critically analyse the rehabilitation programs from the point of view of a human rights framework that is underpinned by basic standards for treatment of prisoners. I premised this focus on human rights on UPS’s current stated effort to shift its approach from a purely penal role to become a correctional institution that upholds offenders’ human rights (Byabashaija, 2012).

My interest in studying prisons in Uganda generally and rehabilitation of prisoners specifically was anchored in my previous work as a pro bono counsellor in prisons, during which time I found that prisoners had many needs that they claimed were not being met by the prison system. My curiosity was further aroused by the futility of trying to find information on what goes on inside prisons of Uganda: my efforts yielded very little, mostly newspaper articles about poor prison conditions (see for example Amon, 8 July 2011; DailyMonitor, 5 December 2004; Nakandi, May 2009).

1.2. Research Approach

There have been many academic studies and writings at the international level about helping former prisoners reintegrate into communities (Cnaan, Draine, Frazier, & Sinha, 2008), the quality and status of social services to ex-prisoners (Petersilia, 2001), and prisoner rehabilitation through alternative forms of punishment (Killias, Aebi, & Ribeaud, 2000; Roach, 2000). There is also much academic commentary and information on prevention of recidivism (Great Britain, 2002; Taxman, 1998), and social work to prisoners as well as issues of prison staff (Patterson, 2012). However, this is not the case in Uganda (and indeed the wider Africa) where much of the information about prisons (for example Dissel, 2008; Peté, 2008; UHRC, 2009, 2012) emphasises the abuse of human rights of prisoners. These reports, and a few others for example, Birungi (2005) and Ssebuggwawo (2010) focus on alternatives to incarceration and only allude in passing, to social services provided to prisoners. The existing literature on prisons in Uganda is therefore insufficient to generate understanding on the rehabilitative programs offered to prisoners by the UPS.

Prior to this research, I was not able to find any information, academic or otherwise, on rehabilitation in Uganda’s prisons: what it is, how it is organised, and ultimately how it links to national social policies. I was only able to find minimal commentary on education provision in prisons specifically, but not from the point of view of its rehabilitative function. Munakukaama (2005) for example noted a virtual lack of education and leisure activities in the majority of prisons in Uganda. In my own interaction with prisoners as a pro bono counsellor in Kigo Prison in 2008 and 2009, I became aware that there is an obviously high level of need for prisoner rehabilitation. Despite this, and while the UPS seemed to acknowledge the importance of reforming prisoners, as Lamunu (2013) reports, the types and level of programs they provide are limited, of low quality and only available in some prisons and not others. Consequently, prisoners rely on each other for care and support.

Information on the UPS website (UPS, n.d.-a) only alludes to rehabilitation rather than fully interrogating or clarifying the concept. The website indicates for example that the service runs four programs under its Correctional Services Directorate. These are: (1) prison farms where prisoners work to not only grow their own food but also gain agricultural skills; (2) prison industries that supposedly provide inmates with work in vocational trades; (3) rehabilitation is mentioned with respect to provision of education, counselling and guidance, music, dance and drama, as well vocational training to inmates; and, (4) welfare programs to prepare offenders for reintegration into society upon release (UPS, n.d.-a). Moreover, various documents of the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, n.d.-b) that I later obtained from different respondents during the research process lacked the necessary clarification or detail that would give insight into, or provide understanding of the whole concept and scope of rehabilitation inside Uganda’s prisons.

The significance of this research therefore was to fill existing information and knowledge gaps regarding rehabilitation of prisoners in Uganda, and generate recommendations that, if considered by the UPS, would translate into improvements in the design and delivery of rehabilitation programs to prisoners in Uganda. Given the paucity of existing literature and analysis of those issues in Uganda, this was by definition an exploratory study and it did not claim to offer a definitive evaluation of the system as a whole.

To achieve a more comprehensive insight, I engaged in wide-ranging interviews. I visited the UPS headquarters where I interacted with the Director of Corrections, the Head of Policy and Planning Unit, the Commissioner in Charge of Training and Research, and Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer (SWRO). I then visited five prisons, namely, Luzira Women, Murchison Bay, Arua Men, Arua Women, and Kitalya Prison Farm. In the respective prisons, I interviewed Officers in Charge (OCs), Welfare and Rehabilitation Officers (WROs), Warders, and prisoners. All the respondents I chose were either in charge of policy development or implementation processes, or in the case of prisoners, recipients of policy action. I adopted a qualitative methodology for this research, using in-depth interviews with key informants, focus group discussions with prisoners, and document review. I used this approach primarily because I sought to get an in-depth description and understanding of the different dynamics of the rehabilitative function in Uganda’s prisons. In order to facilitate a more coherent overview of issues emerging regarding rehabilitation in the UPS, I present the results of those interviews in an integrated thematic way in chapter 5.

1.3. Prison as a Community

Imprisonment creates a completely new experience for many, in a unique kind of context. Prisoners are completely under the control of other people, who on a daily basis influence their most basic human activities and concerns. This includes regulation of access to medical facilities, work, education, feeding and performance of bodily functions, as well as rights to religious practice and contact with the outside world (Munakukaama, 2005). At the same time, prisoners are expected to reform their ways and return to society as better people.

Inmates have needs that vary from poor psychological and mental health, physical ill health and sexual needs; and for those who stay in prison for long, there is erosion of existing knowledge, information, and skills. There is weariness and fear of what one will or will not be able to do when they leave prison, and how they will be able to cope in the mainstream society (Sarkin, 2008). There are also more gender specific problems. For example, in Uganda, women are sometimes incarcerated with their young children, as they would have no other form of care away from their mothers. Others deliver their babies while in prison. These children then become part of the prison community and their needs for health, education, and general welfare abound (Mudoola, n.d.; Robertson, March 2012; Stanley, 22 April 2014; Tajuba, 30 September 2013).

In order to understand the rehabilitative ideal of imprisonment in Uganda, the study used the concept of ‘prison as a community’ as discussed by Clemmer (1940) and Sykes (1958) in their investigations into imprisonment. They described the prison as a unique social system - a community with its own pecking order and value system that exists apart from and often contradicts that of the outside society. Gillespie (2004) noted that the prison world is not static but changes rapidly and inevitably in response to events both outside and inside it. The rationale for treating the prison as a community in this study was because, as contended by Hayner and Ash (1940), if the function of a prison is to protect society, the convict must learn during their period of incarceration how to live in society. They need to learn to play the role of a citizen, must be engaged in activities similar to those taking place outside the prison, and develop a sense of social responsibility. This is the core aim of rehabilitation.

1.4. Chapter Breakdown

The core aim of this research was to map and give a critical analysis (not an evaluation) of prisoner rehabilitation in the Uganda Prisons Service. I have, in this chapter, introduced the research, and clarified its overall aim and the motivations that drove me into studying the subject of prisoner rehabilitation in Uganda’s prisons. I have given a brief of the methodological approach I adopted and the respondents I chose. Chapter 2 will give a historical overview to prison services in Uganda, and explain the legal and operational framework of the Uganda Prisons Service. In chapter 3, I provide a review of literature on prisoner rehabilitation, and discuss the idea of a human rights based approach to correctional rehabilitation. Chapter 4 details the methodological approach I adopted for this study and describes the research process. In chapter 5, I provide a detailed account of my findings and end with a discussion of key crosscutting issues that emerged. Finally, chapter 6 will conclude the research, giving a general overview of the research process and listing the key lessons I drew as well as emerging areas that require further research, and also provide some recommendations for consideration by the UPS.

2.0. Policy framework

This chapter provides a brief overview of the prison system in Uganda, giving its historical background, outlining its legal and policy framework, and describing its operational framework. It briefly argues that this policy and operational framework influences the approach with which the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) delivers rehabilitation to prisoners.

2.1. Historical Background to the Prison System in Uganda

Imprisonment as a form of punishment did not exist in many places in Africa and was rarely used in others until pre-colonial times. Criminals were usually detained by being chained in the open, or given other public forms of punishment. Imprisonment was not regarded as a suitable form of punishment for ordinary offenders (Sarkin-Hughes, 2008), physical restraint was rarely used, and detention does not appear to have been regarded as a punishment in itself (Read, 1969). In pre-colonial Africa, in the rare situations involving detention, offenders would be held for the purposes of attending their trial or awaiting the imposition of some other form of punishment. For example, offenders in the kingdom of Ankole and Buganda were detained in a form of stocks usually pending their execution.[1] Prisons in East Africa were introduced only after the advent of the British rule (Read, 1969). Corporal punishment and the death penalty were rarely used in traditional societies in East Africa,[2] the former only used as a punishment of last resort. Common punishments included ostracising the offender, which took the form of isolation within the community or total banishment by means of a formal ritual (Bernault, 2003; Read, 1969).

During colonial administration, colonial powers began using incarceration as a means of subjugating indigenous populations for economic, political, and social purposes. Sarkin-Hughes (2008) noted that politically and socially, colonialists used incarceration as a method of controlling political dissidents and maintaining colonial control over occupied territories and their indigenous populations. Kamugisha (n.d.) observed that colonialists incarcerated natives for minor offences like tax defaulting and civil felonies that would not have warranted hard punishment in the pre-colonial era. As such, Sarkin-Hughes (2008) argues, the aim of these systems was hardly to rehabilitate criminals or reintegrate them into society. In fact, these prisons successfully created a subclass of humans who were available as cheap labour, subjecting them to inhumane living conditions. Citing Peté and Devenish (2005), Sarkin-Hughes (2008) noted the use of various methods of torture and cruel punishment during the colonial period in Africa at a time when Europeans were ostensibly abandoning torture as a means of punishment in Europe. African colonial prisons thus revived and sustained horrific methods of torture for natives who colonial masters deemed to be uncivilised, childlike, and savage; and European colonialists viewed corporal punishment as a cost effective means of dealing with colonial subjects in a manner suitable to their status (Sarkin-Hughes, 2008).

2.2. Emerging Legal and Policy Framework for The UPS

In the British colony of Uganda, Read (1969) reported that first prisons were established during the late 19th century and early 20th century. A dual system emerged with some prisons controlled by native authorities and others by colonial authorities, with the native government of Buganda establishing the first prisons in Uganda soon after the declaration of the protectorate in 1894. Kamugisha (n.d.) reports that between 1896 and 1899 during the British colonial era, prison functions were situated within the Uganda Protectorate Police Force. The Uganda Armed Constabulary Ordinance of 1903 was the first instrument to establish legally the prison’s function but this was disguised under the ordinance’s focus of policing. Later, the 1907 Prison Ordinance, the 1908 Uganda Identification of Prisoners Ordinance, together with the 1909 Constitution of Prison Officers Ordinance confirmed this function.[3] The prisons service attained full autonomy in 1958 when the Prisons Ordinance, Rules, and Regulations came into existence. The Prisons Ordinance, 1958 (revised in 1964) together with Prisons Rules and Regulations made thereunder, continued to provide the legal framework for the operations of Prisons until 1994 (Kamugisha, n.d.).[4]

In 1995, a new Constitution was promulgated in Uganda, which established the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) as it is known currently. At the international and regional levels, Uganda has ratified treaties providing for the minimum standards for prison conditions and prisoners’ rights. The UPS is therefore bound by and has a mandate to fulfil the provisions of these treaties. These, according to the USP Strategic Investment Plan (UPS, 2012) provide baseline standards for the UPS, and include among others, the:

1. UN Minimum Standard Rules for Treatment of Prisoners 1955;
2. UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights 1966;
3. UN Convention Against Torture and Ill-treatment 1984;
4. UN General Assembly Resolution 43/173: Body of Principles for Protection of all Persons under Detention 1988;
5. UN General Assembly Resolution 45/110: Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures 1990;
6. African Charter on Human and People’s Rights 1981;

At the national level, the Auditor General (2010) observes that the UPS obtains its mandate from the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (as amended in 2005)[5]. Articles 215 – 217 of the Constitution provide for the establishment, leadership, and regulation of the UPS. The Constitution mandates the UPS to provide “custody of prisoners and rehabilitation of offenders.” Article 217 of the Constitution mandates Parliament to make legislation to guide the organisation, administration, and functions of the service. Under this mandate, the Parliament enacted the Prisons Act, 2006[6] to repeal and replace the Prisons Act Cap. 304 of 1958 in order to bring it in line with the Constitution. This Act “establishes the Prisons Authority and the Prisons Council; brings Local Administration Prisons under the Uganda Prisons Service; brings the Act in line with effective and humane modern penal policy and universally accepted international standards; and, provides for other matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing” (Preamble, Prisons Act 2006).

Section 4 of the Act enumerates the objectives of the UPS: its main objective is to contribute to the protection of all members of society by providing reasonable, safe, secure, and humane custody and rehabilitation of offenders in accordance with universally accepted standards” (Prisons Act 2006, Section 4). The key functions of the UPS as set out in the Prisons Act focus on humane custodial conditions, facilitation of rehabilitation and reformation of prisoners, their reintegration to communities, and assigning reasonable work to prisoners as a way to ease prison management (Prisons Act 2006, Section 5).[7]

It is important to note at this point that the 1995 Constitution and the Prisons Act not only confer upon the UPS the obligation to promote, protect, and fulfil the rights of those incarcerated; but also mandates the service to reform and rehabilitate prisoners. They however do not actually interrogate or clarify what rehabilitation means.[8]

2.3. UPS Operational Framework

The UPS is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. At the same time, it is part of the integrated Justice Law and Order Sector, which is an agency set up to coordinate the institutions responsible for administering justice, maintaining law and order, and promoting observance of human rights.[9] A Prisons Authority, instituted by the Prisons Act 2006 is the top decision and policy organ of the UPS, with the Minister of Internal Affairs as its chairperson, and it comprises the Attorney General, the Commissioner General (who is also the chief executive officer), and two other members appointed by the president. Below the Authority is the Prisons Council, comprising top management of the service, with the Commissioner General as the chairperson.

The service has two directorates: Correctional Services and Administration. Under Correctional Services are two departments: Custodial Services, and Rehabilitation and Reform. The Policy, Planning, and Development department falls under the Administration directorate together with the Inspectorate, and Finance and Administration departments.[10] The UPS has 230 prisons spread over 14 administrative units across the country.[11]

Regarding personnel, Kamugisha (n.d.) reports that the prison system in the colonial era did not employ any African officers until 1936 when the first remunerated African staff were appointed. However, it was not until 1944, following the East African Commissioners of Prisons Conference held in Kampala that the process of ‘Africanisation’ of the Uganda Prisons Service began. In 1955, the first African Assistant Superintendent of Prisons was appointed, and the first African Commissioner of Prisons was appointed in 1964, two years after the country’s independence; by1973, the whole prison personnel were entirely African (Kamugisha, n.d.).[12] According to the SIP III, by 2012, the service had 6710 uniformed and 485 non-uniformed officers (UPS, 2012).

2.4. The Uganda Prisoner Population

The prison population depends on multiple factors, which include but are not limited to the country’s population growth, its socioeconomic trends, and the efficiency of the criminal justice system. Uganda’s population increased from 24.4 million in 2002[13] to an estimated 33.0 million people in 2012 (UBOS, 2007). The current projection is 35.9 million people as of July 2014 (Index Mundi, 2014). This trend of population growth is reflected in the prison population. By June 30, 2009, the prison population in the country was 32,000 prisoners (Auditor General, 2010)and had increased to 37,936 as of 30th November 2013. The annual prisoner turnover is estimated at 100,000 prisoners with a growth rate of 10% each year (ICPS, 2013). The Uganda Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2011 alone, the prisoner population increased by 12.3%. These figures are significantly above the country’s population growth rate, which have been constant at an average of 3.2% per annum (UBOS, 2012).

I contend that one of the key contributors to ever-increasing prison population is the challenges that the judicial system in Uganda has. There are too few judges and magistrates to preside over the numerous cases, thereby causing delayed justice. This in turn contributes to the large numbers of people in prison who are not convicted, having been committed to the high court, and therefore waiting for the judge (Kaweesa, 2012; Kyalimpa, 9 December 2009). Other problems of the judicial system include lack of (and resistance to) alternative forms of sentencing that would contribute to decongestion of prisons, keeping people on remand beyond the legally allowed 48 hours (JLOS, n.d.), and, poverty of majority of offenders who cannot afford a lawyer. Such people often remain in prison for years. If they are lucky, they access legal aid services, through the initiative welfare and rehabilitation office (See also Kiapi, 2010; Pavic & Kyriazis, 2011). However, this issue would require a separate study.

Returning now to the subject of this research, a breakdown of inmates’ age in 2011/2012 indicated that majority (67.1%) were aged between 18 and 30 years, and 20.8% aged between 31 and 40 years inclusive (UPS, 2012). This reflects Uganda’s population age profile: according to the 2014 population projection, 21.2% of Uganda’s are aged 15 to 24 years, and 25.7% aged 25 to 54 years (Index Mundi, 2014). Moreover, as a report by Development Research and Training (DRT) and others shows, this group has very high levels of unemployment, redundancy, and dependency: youth unemployment rate is 32.2%, and their dependency ratio is 97.5% (DRT, AAIU, & UNNGOF, 2012; Index Mundi, 2014).

The numbers and characteristics of the prison population have a bearing on UPS’ planning and programming for prisoner rehabilitation, as they influence the extent to which available programs are relevant and sufficiently resourced to answer the rehabilitative needs of the prisoners. Indeed as we shall see in chapter 5, the prison population is characterised by low levels of education and skills. At the same time, overcrowding undermines – in terms of too little space and high demand – rehabilitation. It erodes resources and physical space to undertake rehabilitative functions. An issue that recurred in the interviews of this research was that the fact that those who need the programs are much more than the numbers each program can accommodate limited prisoners’ access to rehabilitation programs.

2.5. Conclusion

To recap, this chapter has provided a historical overview to imprisonment in Africa generally and Uganda in particular, and outlined the emerging legal, policy and operational framework of the Uganda Prison Service. It has drawn linkages between the historical background and current prison population, but also showed that the prison population is a reflection of the national population and judicial system in Uganda. The chapter ends with a discussion alluding to the relationship between prison population and rehabilitation, noting that overpopulation undermines programming, resourcing, and delivery of rehabilitation programs to prisoners. The next chapter examines the concept of rehabilitation and gives an overview of human rights as a framework for correctional rehabilitation.

3.0. Literature review

3.1. Introduction

The literature review for this study examines two main themes. First, I discuss the concept of correctional rehabilitation, giving a general overview of what this means and outlining some commonly implemented rehabilitation approaches in different parts of the world. Second, I delve into the human rights based approach to rehabilitation as the framework within which I anchored this research. I base the discussion on human rights on the premise that there is a close relationship between rehabilitation of prisoners and their human rights.

As much as possible, I used information available in the Uganda and African contexts to develop this study. Much of the literature cited in this chapter however is from international studies. This is because, as Van Zyl Smit (2001) and Boone (2003) noted, there is scarcity of data and statistics about criminal justice systems (for prosecutions, trials, and prisons) in Africa along with a significant gap in academic analysis. They observe that for many countries (including Uganda), [14] the information is simply not available or the prison statistics not accurate, and thus the existing resources do not adequately reflect current issues and experiences. Therefore, while there is some knowledge, there is a paucity of reliable descriptive and analytical material. The dearth of information on prisons, which is widespread in the global south, may also be partly linked to state power and control over data: the state usually runs prisons in Africa, and apparently, state regimes have deliberately made information about prison difficult to obtain. Another factor contributing to the lack of information on prisoners is the widespread dominance of the “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality in Africa, which often reflects negative public sentiments towards prisoners and public indifference about the harsh treatment meted out to them (Sarkin-Hughes, 2008). The consequence, as I discovered during my research, is that insufficient records are kept about what goes on in prisons. It was indeed extremely difficult to find information on Uganda’s prisons during my entire research process, and this remains an ongoing challenge for all researchers in this area.

3.2. Rehabilitation of Prisoners

In this section, I discuss the meaning of rehabilitation in the context of correctional facilities or prisons, and the rationale behind offender rehabilitation. I then give an overview of common rehabilitation programs in different parts of the world, discussing typical program design, processes of implementation and whether the programs were found to be effective or not. Information regarding design and processes of rehabilitation is crucial for my research as these are the core areas that I was interested in documenting within the correctional rehabilitation of Uganda’s prisoners. This information would therefore contribute to the analysis of my findings and provide a useful comparator against which to explore developments in Uganda.

3.2.1. The Concept of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation means to restore to useful life as through therapy and education, or to restore to good condition, operation, or capacity (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2014). Elsewhere, and in more sociological terms, it is defined as the process of helping a person adapt to society (Campbell, 2005), or a punishment intended to reform a convict so that he or she can lead a ‘productive’ life free of crime (Smith, n.d.). Rehabilitation seeks to reduce criminal propensity by changing attitudes, cognitive patterns, social relationships, and/or resources of offenders (Cullen & Applegate, 1997).

Citing Irwin (1980), Kathryn Campbell (2005) reports that ideas of rehabilitation through punishment were first embodied in the United States’ penitentiaries of the 19th century when it was hoped that felons, if kept in solitude, would reflect penitently on their sins in order that they might cleanse and transform themselves. This later transformed into a system of labour performed in silence. Campbell (2005) explains that prisoners were expected to meditate over why they chose a criminal path in order to amend their ways. At this time, prisoners were effectively responsible for their own rehabilitation since the causes of crime were thought to result from individuals’ inability to lead orderly and God-fearing lives. In the latter part of the 19th century, the penitentiary gave way to the reformatory, which attempted to rehabilitate offenders through more deliberate forms of intervention such as educational and vocational training. Reformatories, because they promoted physical punishment, quickly regressed from their rehabilitative ideal to regimes that were more punitive.

Campbell (2005) adds that the medical model of rehabilitation emerged at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century in response to perceived ineffectiveness of earlier means of rehabilitation. New scientific disciplines like psychiatry, psychology, and criminology viewed offenders as by-products of socioeconomic or psychological forces beyond their control. Professionals saw crime as a socially generated sickness, and the objective of corrections was to cure the offender. The medical model soon fell out of favour due to some of its inhumane and often illegal procedures that violated rights of prisoners, to the extent that some prisoners could be incarcerated indefinitely if it was determined that they had not been sufficiently rehabilitated (see also Lin, 2000).

In his discussion on penal modernism and post-modernism, David Garland (2003) observed that contemporary penalty has undergone significant transformation, to emphasise and refine the rehabilitative ideal. He notes that the culture of modern penalty is one of utility, rationality, the rights of man and the rule of law. Under this approach, punishments are to be carefully calibrated to ensure maximum effect from the minimum pain, they must be put to good use, rather than striking out destructively, and should be made positive in their results; corrective measures should be individualised and adapted to a specific case or particular problem.

Writing more specifically on the African context, Munakukaama (2005) notes that one of the values of imprisonment in crime control is reformation, which assumes that punishment is a strong means of influencing human behaviour, and therefore has a corrective value when used properly. Accordingly, offenders are imprisoned to be reformed or rehabilitated. During the time they are in prison, they are supposed to be helped to realise that committing a crime is wrong. In this regard, Munakukaama (2005) adds, measures employed to treat offenders essentially serve therapeutic functions designed to bring about changes in behaviour in the interest of their own happiness, and in the interest of social welfare.

He avers that the reformative ideal of imprisonment is humane and in line with the spirit of human rights standards; and argues that the underlying views on the purpose of imprisonment have a bearing on the treatment of prisoners. If prisoners are viewed as beyond redemption and prisons as a source of punishment, then penal policies pay no attention to the need for treating them decently or respect their rights while in prison. Contrary to this is what he defines as the philanthropic view, which he says is humanistic, and characterised by a more sympathetic understanding of the prisoners’ situation. He cites Lord Wilberforce of the United Kingdom who, in the case of Raymond v Honey decided on 4 March 1981, held that “a convicted prisoner, in spite of his imprisonment, retains all civil rights, which are not taken away expressly, or by necessary implication” ("Raymond v Honey," 4 March 1981). Munakukaama opines that the purpose and justification of imprisonment or a similar measure deprivative of liberty, is ultimately to protect society.

According to Andrew Von Hirsh (2003) prison based rehabilitation is expected to satisfy multiple interests: the citizenry would benefit through reduced recidivism, and the offender would gain through programs aimed at his or her needs. Von Hirsh (2003) recognises that much of the rehabilitation ideal’s attractiveness lies in its commitment to doing good. However, he doubts that rehabilitative programs are in fact designed to achieve these intentions because, in his view, their criterion for success is whether recidivism is reduced. He postulates that such a reduction helps society but not necessarily the offender.

In this research, I explored the reasons advanced by the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) for implementing rehabilitation programs and the reduction of recidivism featured prominently. Indeed some respondents alluded to this as one of the success stories related to prisoner rehabilitation, as I will mention in chapter 5. However, because it was outside the scope of this study to evaluate the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programs, I did not delve into the extent to which recidivism was reducing or whether the said reduction was related to implementation of rehabilitation programs.

3.2.2. Common Rehabilitation Programs and their Effectiveness

The literature in this section draws heavily on the United States experiences because, as indicated earlier, there is paucity of information on this subject in Uganda, and indeed the African context. While I acknowledge that the US correctional system differs greatly from that in Africa, I use these examples to expose some general principles of prisoner rehabilitation that are acceptable across jurisdictions. Indeed, as my study found, the rehabilitation programs in Uganda’s prisons are broadly similar to those discussed in the following subsections, only with varying degrees in design and efficiency.

Rehabilitation through Academic Education and Life Skills

The academic component of prison-based rehabilitation includes adult basic, secondary, and literacy programs, and in some facilities may include access to college coursework. According to Stephan (1997), in the United States, prison academic programs are mandatory in the majority of states. Where they are not, states use incentives like daily stipends, extra privileges, and promotion to a higher paying or better class job, to encourage educational participation. In a 1995 survey of all state and federal correctional facilities, Stephan (1997) found that 87% had educational programs, more than 75% offered basic adult and secondary education, while a third provided access to college coursework. The life skills component included instructions on how to search for a job, balance a checkbook, budget, control anger, make decisions and set goals; and any such skills that would help a prisoner to function successfully in everyday life after prison.[15]

MacKenzie (2006) avers that one of the reasons for the continuing emphasis on educational programs s a rehabilitative model is the strong correlation between educational level and criminal activity internationally. Prison inmates are generally less educated, have fewer marketable skills than the general population, and higher rates of illiteracy. She adds that educational programs seem to be effective because they improve inmate cognitive skills. This is important as deficiencies in social cognition,[16] executive cognitive functioning,[17] problem solving abilities, and the sense of self-efficacy are all cognitive deficits associated with criminal activity (MacKenzie, 2006). Meta analysis studies by Wilson, Gallagher, and MacKenzie (2000) confirmed that educational programs that solve these deficiencies have been found to reduce future offending and improve offenders’ ability to use and process information; and may provide a basis for reconstruction of law-abiding lifestyles following release from prison. Moreover, economic theorists like Gerber and Fritsch (1995) assert that educational programs reduce offending more directly via increased skills and employability. Educational models thus embody the values of rationality and utility that are denoted by Garland (2003) in his commentary on modern approaches to penal correction.

Rehabilitation via Vocational Education and Industrial Work

Cullen and Santana (2002) report that work has been an important part of the daily activities of inmates since the inception of penitentiaries. The reformatory era in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought in the perspective of work with vocational training to contribute to prisoner rehabilitation. The objective at the time was to prepare prisoners for employment after release. A study by Stephan (1997) found that 94% of correctional facilities in the United States offered work programs. A third of the facilities employed inmates in a prison industry and a half provided vocational training, while two thirds of the inmates participated in a work programs. He concluded that the strong association between employment and crime has led to the assumption that if employment opportunities or work skills of offenders can be enhanced through programming, their future criminal activities will decline. It is this correlation that underpins the rehabilitative ideal of vocational education and work programs, which again demonstrates the influence of modernist ideas of rationality and calculability in modern prison reform (Garland, 2003).

Vocational education is one of the most widely implemented programs in correctional settings internationally because it addresses the high incidence of academic and employment failure among offenders. According to MacKenzie (2012), programs generally include classroom-based education, job training, and apprenticeships, as well as life skills components such as time management and work ethics. Some programs offer accreditation to offenders who complete vocational education programs, enabling them to obtain a necessary trade license. Other programs create partnerships between correctional institutions and local trades-people that focus on post-release employment opportunities, where offenders gain actual work experience in the community under supervision. Evaluation reviews conducted by Lattimore, Witte, and Baker and (1990) in the North Carolina Department of Corrections assessed effectiveness of programs that included vocational interest and aptitude, specific skills training, and post-release employment assistance. They found that offenders who participated in programs had significantly lower arrest rates in the twenty-four months following release from prison than those who did not attend programs, and concluded that vocational education programs are effective in reducing recidivism.

Correctional industries in the US typically offer work experience to inmates, with the aim to keep prisoners busy, provide goods and services, and alleviate the costs of corrections. These goals appear more important than rehabilitation. Studies conducted in New York (Maguire, Flanagan, & Thornberry, 1988) and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Saylor & Gaes, 1997) found that the participants in prison industrial work had lower recidivism rates. However, further analysis of the aforementioned studies by Mackenzie (2006) concluded that overall, there was insufficient evidence to show that correctional industries are promising as effective rehabilitation programs.

Rehabilitation through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Programs

Based on cognitive behavioural theory, these therapies focus on human change through demonstrated behavioural outcomes. Changes in behaviour are achieved through changes in the way an individual perceives, reflects, and thinks about their life (Dobson & Khatri, 2000), and ‘dysfunctional’ behaviours are altered through changes in attitudes, beliefs, and thought processes (Fabiano, Porporino, & Robinson, 1991). Some research from the US shows that cognitive therapies used with correctional populations result in changes described as cognitive restructuring, coping skills, problem solving, cognitive skills, moral development, and reasoning (Henning & Frueh, 1996).

Cognitive behavioural treatment programs, which are common in many correctional institutions in Canada, for example, are relatively short term, highly structured, and provided to groups in classroom-type settings. The people trained to deliver the programs come from a variety of backgrounds and do not necessarily have training in counselling or psychology. indeed, they often follow a detailed manual or prescribed curriculum intended for the purpose (Lambert, Hogan, Barton, & Stevenson, 2007).

One such program is the Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). It is based on a moral development model of offending, drawing on the connection between thought process and behaviour. The goal of the program is to improve the social, moral, and behavioural deficits of juveniles and adult offenders who are believed to have lower levels of moral reasoning. Treatment is highly structured and provided in a group setting in biweekly two-hour sessions that last 12 to 15 weeks (Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1988). Similarly, the Reasoning and Rehabilitation (R&R) program is premised on the belief that offenders have experienced developmental delays in certain cognitive skills essential for social adaptation resulting into difficulties with interpersonal problem-solving, coping skills, social perspective taking, and critical reasoning. The goal of treatment is to modify this defective thinking so that delinquents and offenders become more reflective and deliberate in their thinking. The program is delivered to groups of 6-8 participants in duration of 35 sessions that run for 8-12 weeks (Joy-Tong & Farrington, 2006). There is also the Cognitive Restructuring (CR) the program, which focuses on deficits in moral reasoning, social skills, and problem solving that are characteristic of delays in normal development as well as faulty thinking patterns. Treatment is directed towards restructuring offenders’ thinking involving principles of self-change and changing lifestyle.

The positive effects of cognitive behavioural approaches have been consistent in reviews of rehabilitation research. For example, meta-analysis of cognitive behavioural programs by Wilson, Gallagher, and MacKenzie (2000) concluded that cognitive behavioural programs appear to be effective for adult offenders in a variety of settings. The studies showed that those receiving any of the three types of cognitive behavioural therapies described above had lower recidivism rates than those who did not receive therapy, although the effectiveness of R&R was not as strong as that of MRT programs. At the sometime, however, as alluded to by the UK Ministry of Justice (2013) and Heseltine, Sarre and Day (2011), these programs are resource intensive and dependent on significant allocations of space and personnel and a commitment to individualised rehabilitation models.

In the African context, Tapscott (2008) notes that many prisons, if not the majority, provide few or no such rehabilitation programs for their inmates. This, he argues, is in part due to official and public perceptions of prisons as places of punishment rather than rehabilitation; but also has to do with a lack of innovation and motivation on the part of prison staff. He further observes that budgetary constraints, prisoner overcrowding, and sometimes a lack of interest on the part of the state mean limited program implementation in the few cases where there have been efforts to rehabilitation. Consequently, initiatives have been stratified according to a hierarchy of needs, dealing first with basic physical needs and more distantly with rehabilitation and other measures to promote reintegration of offenders into society Tapscott (2008).

3.2.3. Challenges to Rehabilitation

Prisons neither are designed to be schools or factories, nor are they set up as places where trusted advisors can dispense their counselling or environments where family support and ties can be nurtured. And while programs such as school, work, counselling and family programs are not uncommon in prisons, they are often operated haphazardly and plagued with scepticism about whether rehabilitation actually works (Lin, 2000).

While discussing challenges to rehabilitation in American prisons, Lin (2000) notes that, the prison environment is bound by the problem of keeping order. Thus, social programs intended for rehabilitation often disrupt routines and therefore threaten the sense of order in prisons. Because of this, he argues, most prison programs become subverted in ways that keep them from being rehabilitative. They are used as a way to keep prisoners occupied and become more focussed on making money for the institution, and less as opportunities to obtain skills. Consequently, Lin (2000) observes, work is often made mandatory for prisoners, sometimes against their will, which is against the reigning philosophy of rehabilitation that emphasises prisoners should ‘want to be rehabilitated’ and therefore their participation should be voluntary participation.

Dissel (2008) discusses certain realities facing many prison systems in Africa that counter rehabilitation efforts and the personal development of prisoners. In South Africa for example, while most state prisons have teaching facilities, due to extreme overcrowding, these are generally too few to meet the needs of all offenders wishing to use them.

Regarding the calibre of correctional staff, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR, 1995, 2001, 2004a, 2004b) noted that prisons in many African countries are understaffed and few personnel have received training that helps them understand their role in terms of facilitating offender rehabilitation. Moreover, Dissel (2008) observed that there is a scarcity of professional staff such as social workers, psychologists, vocational trainers, and educators. In addition, the view to rehabilitation is very narrow, so that provision of schooling, training, or work opportunities is often seen as the full extent of rehabilitation even when no other psychosocial aspects are catered for.

Furthermore, many prisoners spend long periods awaiting trial. Dissel (2008) reported that in 2008, prisoners awaiting trial constituted over 50% of the prison population in 39% of the countries in Africa. According to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, pre-trial prisoners accounted for 56.0% of the prison population (55.5% on remand and 0.5% awaiting ministerial orders) as at 31st December 2013. Paradoxically, rehabilitation and development programs traditionally target only sentenced prisoners. Only a few countries make services available to pre-trial or un-sentenced prisoners. ACHPR (2001) noted for example that in Uganda, remand prisoners are not involved in any rehabilitation programs, but are instead required to work in the fields or keep prisons clean, and are reported to work under very harsh conditions indicating that overall, such work is not of a rehabilitative nature, or intended to be so. I will revert to this observation in chapter 5 when I discuss the findings of this research. I now turn to a review of human rights and their relevance to correctional rehabilitation.

3.3. Human Rights and Correctional Practice

From the foregoing, we have seen that the general conceptualisation of correctional rehabilitation is to systematically attempt to provide offenders with requisite internal and external resources to help them lead better lives. This study will adopt a rights-based approach to social policy, transposing this to the prison context in as far as it is understood to be a community (See Gillespie, 2004). As such, I now turn to a discussion on human rights. First, I briefly describe the human rights situation in Uganda’s prisons and mention how this affects prisoner rehabilitation. I then give a general overview of human rights as a framework within which to anchor ethical correctional practice.

3.3.1. Human Rights within Uganda’s Prisons: A Brief Overview

Prisoners occupy a special position in the rights debate because they are in an unusually close relationship with the state (Lazarus, 2004). The human rights situation of prisoners relates to prison populations as much as it reflects, among other factors, the quality of a country’s penal system and prison culture (Sarkin-Hughes, 2008). It is therefore necessary to provide a brief insight into the human rights situation of the penal system that is the subject of this research, in so far as data and literature allows an accurate review.

Overcrowding of prisons is common in Uganda. The International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) reported that while the official capacity of the Uganda prison system is 15,000 the prison population had reached 39,394 by December 2013. This implied an occupancy level of 252% (ICPS, 2013). Moreover, as the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) reports, limited infrastructure development has been undertaken by the UPS to accommodate the ever-surging numbers of inmates (UHRC, 2013). This chronic overcrowding has consequences for prisoners such as poor hygiene and ill health (Dissel, 2008), shortages in food, beddings, medical supplies and treatment, and overall lack of recreation facilities (Auditor General, 2010; Peté, 2008). It also diminishes both the scope and capacity of educational or work programs due to excessive demand and poor space provision.

Hard labour and mistreatment are another commonly reported practices in Uganda’s prisons. The Human Rights Watch (HRW, 2011) noted that prisoners in Uganda are subjected to long hours of crop cultivation, fetching water and firewood. They work in oppressive conditions of heat and rain, and are sometimes intentionally denied food, water, or bathroom breaks. They are beaten for being slow or handcuffed, stoned or burned if they refuse to work. Vulnerable prisoners including children, the sick, the elderly and pregnant women are also beaten and forced to work. HRW (2011) observed that this is contrary to the 1955 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners that Uganda has committed to observe, which provide that prison labour must not be afflictive but rather of a vocational nature, and prisoners should be allowed to choose the type of work they wish to perform.

Another human rights derogation that prisoners in Uganda face is prolonged detentions, which arise from inordinate delays in the execution of justice. Prisoners take long awaiting trial[18] leading to large numbers of remand suspects. The Uganda Human Rights Commission observed that in 2013 alone, the remand population grew at 1.8% compared to the convict population, which grew at only 0.3%. The Commission further noted that 56% of the prison population have never been convicted of any crime yet they continue to stay in prison for years (UHRC, 2013). This is an issue for rehabilitation because as I discuss later in chapter 5, prisoners on remand are exempted from rehabilitation programs. One might also question whether it is ethically appropriate to rehabilitate prisoners who are in effect not proven guilty of a crime, which in turn raises deeper questions regarding the ways that remand prisoners should be processed and held within the prison system.

3.3.2. The Human Rights Framework for Correctional Rehabilitation

A rights based approach to social policy connotes the introduction of a set of institutions and policies within a society that secure every members’ reasonable access to a social minimum. It ensures that policy speaks to national and international human rights standards, and that policy delivery does not contravene these rights and entitlements. As espoused by Marshall (1950) (cited in Hartley, 2007), these rights, characterised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), relate to the ways and means by which human beings obtain livelihoods and are able to participate in the human society.

Transposing this understanding of social (welfare) rights to the prison community, Ward (2009) posits that the key human rights ingredient is dignity: that prisoners have a right to be included with dignity, parity of participation and the avoidance of systematic social inequalities. According to Sulmasy (2007), the concept of dignity designates the equal moral worth or value of all human beings. Individual’s inherent dignity grounds their authority to claim basic entitlements to resources and non-interference from others in pursuit of justified goals (Nussbaum, 2006). It also connotes the right to participate in society and it reflects the status of the individual as a person seen to be important (Muntingh, 2007). The implication for correctional practice is that all offenders are entitled to be treated in a way that reflects their inherent dignity.

Human rights are grounded in the theory of dignity and can be conceptualised as moral (and their accompanying legal) norms that are designated to protect the core needs, capacities, and experiences of all human beings. In other words, the purpose of human rights is to ensure that the inherent dignity of all human beings is maintained. If they are violated it will result in diminished and broken lives (Griffin, 2008; Ward, 2011). Individuals (including offenders) [19] hold human rights simply because they are members of the human race, and as such are entitled to a life characterised by dignity (Ward, 2009). Hence, correctional practice ought to be implemented in accordance with the dignity and rights of offenders (Lazarus, 2004; Lippke, 2002).

At the same time, rights imply duties. Because all people possess equal dignity, each person has a corresponding obligation to respond appropriately to other people’s legitimate claims. Therefore, whatever entitlements are extended to offenders, these should always be balanced against the core interest and core human rights of others and the safety of the community at large. This conceptual connection between human rights entitlements and obligations fits well with the aims of offender rehabilitation, that is, wellbeing enhancement of the offender and risk reduction to society (Ward, 2009, 2011).[20]

Ward (2011) asserts that correctional practice bears the duty to acknowledge the inherent potential of each prisoner to contribute to society and be able to lead a socially reasonable and crime free life. It is the expectation therefore that even though prisoners’ movements are confined, they should be able to enjoy human rights as much as it is possible, without undue regard to their legal status. It is in this spirit that Justice Hoexter’s of South Africa opined thus: “... prisoners were entitled to all their personal rights and personal dignity not temporarily taken away by law or necessarily inconsistent with the circumstances in which they had been placed ...” ("August and Another v Electral Commission and Others," April 1, 1999). This opinion implies that imprisonment per se is not a justification for the limitation of prisoners’ rights, except those that are absolutely necessary to curtail in order to implement the sentence (Muntingh, 2007). This requirement is also emphasised in the African Charter on Prisoners’ Rights and Uganda’s Prison Act, 2006, section 57.

As the previous section illustrates, correctional practice and indeed prison rehabilitation programs are designed to equip offenders with essential living and coping skills that will enable them lead socially responsible and crime free lives (Lazarus, 2004; Ward & Maruna, 2007). Examples include vocational programs which aim to help offenders acquire employment related skills and treatment programs set out to reduce risk factors and develop core psychological and social competences (Levenson & D'Amora, 2005). Muntingh (2007) argues that without such services and conditions, it is unlikely that prisoners will subscribe to the values of self worth, respect for others, and respect for the rule of law. He avers that degrading and humiliating treatment and conditions do not create an environment supportive of the rehabilitative ideal. Thus, a strong symbiotic link is made between respect for human rights and effective rehabilitation.

3.3.3. Implications for Practitioners

Ward (2011) discusses four implications for adopting a human rights based approach to offender treatment. First, he notes the importance of avoiding unjustified discrimination on grounds such as offenders’ ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, occupation, and gender. He alludes to more persuasive grounds for discrimination, for example, the type and severity of prisoners’ offence and their assessed level of risk. Ward and Bridgen (2007) observed that ‘high risk’ or ‘serious’ offenders are subject to additional levels of security meaning that they already have less access to goods such as joint leisure, vocational training, and educational resources. McCarthy (2010) advises that while an offender may have committed a vicious crime that warrants long sentencing, this does not mean they should be denied the opportunity to participate in reform processes.

Second, is the dilemma of dealing with inevitable pressures towards paternalism, which if present poses a threat to human rights. Beauchamp and Childress (2009) define paternalism as the intentional restriction or overriding of a subordinate person’s preferences or freedoms by those in authority. Paternalistic tendencies often override offenders’ preferences. They conflict with the individuals’ autonomy and therefore threaten their dignity as rational, self-determining individuals. If paternalism is unjustified, it violates the autonomy and freedom requirements of human rights and therefore is ethically unacceptable (Ward, 2011). Overriding paternalism is challenging in prisons, which are inherently restrictive of prisoner liberty and which as ‘communities’ (Gillespie, 2004) may also constrain individual autonomy in more subtle ways. Nonetheless, a human rights framework would suggest that whenever possible, prisons should facilitate opportunities for decision making by prisoners.

Third is the need to adopt a desistance program approach. Kazemian (2007, p. 9) defines desistance as a termination point, “the last officially recorded or self-reported offence.” According to Laws and Ward (2011), desistance oriented programs focus on the offenders’ social environment beyond the correctional orbit, and therapeutic efforts aim to equip them with strengths to tap into desistance opportunities such as employment, education, and relationships. A desistance approach also places responsibility on the community to actively assist offenders to undergo the process of reform and reconciliation. Ward (2011) opines that from a human rights perspective, desistance oriented rehabilitation is more responsive to offenders’ specific needs and values; thus participating in well-structured desistance oriented rehabilitation will increase the likelihood of that individuals will seek out desistance opportunities after release.

The fourth implication is that correctional practitioners need to work with offenders to promote good or better lives rather than adopting a simple risk reduction and management approach. Ward and Maruna (2007) suggest that rehabilitation should aim to help offenders acquire competencies and social opportunities and supports necessary to realised their endorsed personal goals. These goals are derived from human needs, personal abilities and interests, and cultural resources; and reflect individuals’ own self-conceptions.

To wrap up this subsection, I have shown that the dignity of human beings, including offenders, gives rise to their equal moral worth; and that human rights are meant to protect this dignity. As such, correctional practitioners should attempt to deliver programs that respond to the needs and aspirations of offenders, and that, their conditions within prisons do not fall below acceptable human rights standards. They also should seek to promote decision-making and autonomy where possible, and avoid excessive paternalism

3.4. Conclusion

In this chapter, I focussed my review on two main themes that underpin my research: correctional rehabilitation and human rights as a framework for correctional rehabilitation. I explored the concept of rehabilitation and gave a brief overview of most commonly implemented correctional rehabilitation programs internationally, specifically drawing examples from the US and Canada. I also discussed the concept of human rights and dignity. I argued that a human rights perspective must underpin ethical correctional rehabilitation if it is to help offenders become better citizens while at the same time ensuring that their propensity to harm society is lessened.

4.0. Methodology and research design

4.1. Introduction

The intention of my research was to document the methods and models used by the Uganda Prison Service (UPS) to rehabilitate prisoners while they are still in incarceration. In this section, I describe the methods I used to obtain information for this study, and to analyse the provision of rehabilitation to prisoners within the UPS. I discuss the design, scope, sample and overall research approach, and the various research tools and methods that I used during the research. I also discuss the method of data analysis that I used and how I ensured validity. I also include a note on ethical issues that I encountered as well as my experience during the research process.

4.2. Key Questions

In order to understand the nature of prisoner rehabilitation provided by the UPS, I set out to answer four key questions:

1. What is the UPS’ understanding of the concept of rehabilitation?
2. What are the policy and theoretical underpinnings to prisoner rehabilitation in Uganda?
3. How are rehabilitation programs designed and organised? This included questions around delivery, staffing, and resourcing.
4. What are the staff and prisoner perceptions and experiences of rehabilitation programs?

4.3. Study Sample

I carried out the research in five prisons located at different levels within the UPS structure, at national, regional, and local government levels[21]. In choosing to study prisons at the different levels, I hoped to compare the different ways in which rehabilitation is delivered depending on how proximate the prisons were to the administrative headquarters – those at national level are nearest and those at local government level are furthest. The Prisons I visited were Luzira Murchison Bay for men and Luzira Women at the national level, Arua Men, and Arua Women at the regional level, and Kitalya Prison Farm at the local government level. It is important to note at this point that the Commissioner in charge of Research and Training at the UPS headquarters determined which prisons I could visit after having a discussion with me regarding what I was hoping to get from this research. In total, I interviewed 60 respondents as follows (see also table on next page):

- 4 staff at the UPS headquarters, namely, 1 Director of Correctional Services, 1 Commissioner in Charge of Research and Training, 1 Head of Policy and Planning, and 1 Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer.
- 13 officers in the different prisons including, 3 Officers in Charge; 3 Deputy Officers in Charge, 1 Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer, 3 Assistant Welfare and Rehabilitation Officers, 2 Warders, and 1 Records Officer.
- Outside prison respondents including, 2 ex-prisoners and 1 student.
- 40 prisoners.

The prisoners I interviewed comprised the following: At Arua Men: 1 head teacher and 2 teachers in the prison primary school, 3 instructors in the prison carpentry workshop, 2 primary school and 2 carpentry learners.[22] At Luzira Women: 2 instructors, 1 HIV&AIDS counsellor, 1 legal & religion counsellor, 1 primary school teacher, and 5 learners. At Arua Women: 20 inmates not based on any criteria.

Table 1: Description of Respondents

illustration not visible in this excerpt[23]

To obtain permission to access prisons and interview officers and inmates, I obtained a letter from my Course Coordinator at the University College Cork introducing me to the Commissioner General (CG) of the UPS, and explaining the purpose of this research. Prior to submitting this, I had an informal meeting with the Commissioner in Charge of Research and Training at the UPS headquarters. He requested me to submit the letter from my university together with a letter from myself, and copies of my proposal and questionnaire to the CG When I submitted these, I waited three weeks before receiving feedback. During that time, I was invited to have an informal meeting with the Director of Correctional Services at the UPS headquarters in which we discussed my interest in research in prisons and whether I had prior interaction with the prison system in Uganda. Two days after this meeting, I received the letter granting me permission to proceed with my research in four prisons selected by headquarters but which fulfilled my criteria and requirements.

4.4. Research Design

My methodology was qualitative in nature because I sought to obtain an in-depth and holistic description and explanation of the rehabilitation function of the UPS through gathering of detailed information. Specifically, I adopted a combination of exploratory and descriptive study design, with the intention to answer the ‘What’ question. This would be to define the nature of the phenomenon of prisoner rehabilitation in Uganda; describe the various forms this phenomenon appears in; what aspects it has; what has changed overtime if at all; and to some extent, give a critical analysis of my findings.

The reason for the adoption of this design is that my research area is novel in Uganda. As I discovered, there is no academic information on prisoner rehabilitation – or prisons generally – in the country. What is available are general policy documents and periodic reports that talk about bits and pieces of rehabilitation programs.

My respondents were in a way predetermined by the Commissioner General. He ‘advised’ me to interview the Officers in Charge (OCs) of the respective prisons, who would in turn decide whether I should interview the Welfare and Rehabilitation Officers. The OCs also had the prerogative to grant or deny me access to prisoners.[24] In all cases, access was granted, although, as alluded to earlier, I was not able to talk to prisoners in Murchison Bay and Kitalya Prison Farm.

4.5. Data Collection

My research process was generally flexible and unstructured, which was the most appropriate approach for me given that I was researching a tightly secured institution where I needed to follow the rules and procedure strictly[25]. I did not do any electronic recording as the authorities for security purposes forbade this. All my interviews were based on semi structured question guides that were developed for each of the respondent categories, and responses were handwritten in a notebook for later transcription.[26]

All the interviews required prior appointment. For headquarter staff, I made appointments through telephone calls obtained from the front desk officer. On a number of occasions, I had to reschedule interviews due to unforeseen urgent government business that respondents had to attend. Before commencing the research in the prisons, I had to travel to the respective prisons on the Monday of the week in which I wanted to conduct the interviews to introduce myself to the OC, answer a few ‘security questions’ and negotiate dates and times to carry out the interviews with staff and inmates. In all cases, the OCs instructed the WROs to avail time for my research and mobilise inmates to participate in the FGDs. On average, I used five days for each prison, because I could not work there during visitation days of Tuesday and Thursday. I spent at least 5 hours a day in each of the settings, including waiting periods. I used four main forms of data collection:

1. In-depth interviewing of policy makers and implementers.[27] It is from these interviews that I expected to obtain key policy information regarding offender rehabilitation and the thinking behind the rehabilitation programs.
2. Focus group discussions (and a general meeting) with male and female inmates. From these, I sought to understand prisoner perceptions about what UPS terms rehabilitation, whether indeed prisoners felt the programs were rehabilitative. I also needed to get a feel of the prisoners’ experiences from participating in these programs; and whether they had any opinions regarding the effectiveness and possible improvements of the programs.
3. Observation: I spent some time looking around the prisons and taking note of a few processes that were going on. These included school and carpentry lessons, inmates going in and out to farms, prisoners cleaning or sitting idly, inmates using a computer in the WROs office – apparently using email to communicate with their relatives, warders counting and giving instructions to prisoners, among others. The purpose of this process was to pick information that would otherwise not have been mentioned by the key informants, and get a sense of the relationship between prisoners and officers.
4. Document review: I obtained a few documents from the different officers I interviewed both at headquarters and in prisons. It included the UPS Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) III and other related policy documents and workshop notes. Otherwise, it was impossible to obtain any official or academic information on the UPS from anywhere else. The purpose of reading this information was to fill information gaps, and anything I may not have captured well given that I was not recording the interviews.

During the data collection process, I had some notable experiences as that I now mention briefly. At Arua Women, the discussion with the prisoners took the form of a ‘general meeting’ with about 20 inmates instead of a typical focus group discussion. It was highly unstructured as the warder allowed whoever was interested to participate, and to join and leave the meeting at leisure. In addition, I communicated with these respondents through an interpreter. I spoke to them in English and they responded in the local language, Luo. The interpreter only translated from Luo to English, not the other way round. I asked participants why they would not communicate to me in English if they understood what I said; they said that while they understood English, they were not confident enough to speak it. All the same, they continually corrected the interpreter whenever he did not fully convey the meaning of what they said.

At Murchison Bay and Kitalya Prison Farm, I was not able to have Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with the inmates. At Murchison Bay, the WRO said she was too busy to mobilise prisoners to talk to me that day and if I really had to talk to them, I would have to return another day; I was too time constrained to return. At Kitalya Prison Farm, the AWRO was sick and had been called in that day for purposes of attending to me. Therefore, he was not able to mobilise the prisoners for the FGD. At the same time, he felt that he had been very detailed and open in his responses that the inmates would not provide much new information. Nevertheless, he looked through the FGD question guide and answered the questions that had not featured in his discussion with me. Despite this glitch, my interview with the AWRO of Kitalya prison farm generated some of the most detailed and rich information from the entire research process, and his responses on behalf of the inmates did not differ much from those of the FGDs I had had in Arua and Luzira women.

Lastly, although I was not granted permission to enter Luzira Upper and Luzira Remand prisons, it was very important for me to understand and document the rehabilitation programs particularly in Luzira Upper. This is because all programs are first implemented here before they are introduced in other prisons. Indeed as I mention in chapter 5, some of the programs only exist in Luzira Upper prison. Although I had obtained information from key informants at headquarters regarding these programs, it still had some gaps. Therefore, I made a last minute decision to hold two informal interviews with two ex-prisoners: one from Upper and another from Remand in an attempt to fill these information gaps.

4.6. Data Management and Analysis

I adopted the data analysis process as articulated in Leedy and Ormrod (2010). At the end of every workday, I read my handwritten notes comparing with the question guide to ensure that I had all the data I had intended to gather. In a few instances, I identified some information gaps, which I followed up. In the case of Arua, I went back to a follow up interview with another officer not previously interviewed. For Luzira and Kitalya, I made follow up interviews with previous respondents via telephone.

Having obtained all the data, I concurrently transcribed and arranged all the data into key themes in a Microsoft word document. Each of the themes forms a subsection in chapter 5 where I give a detailed account of my research findings. This was not necessarily difficult as many respondents gave similar responses and highlighted similar issues. What seemed to be challenging was how to fit in the information that at first did not seem to be related to the already developed themes. For example, because the welfare and rehabilitation department also takes care of staff issues, some respondents compelled me to record issues they felt management needed to address to improve staff wellbeing. Such information was not easy to fit into the focus of this research. In addition, because of the large volume of information, I also took longer than I had anticipated to generate a logically flowing report and discussion.

4.7. A Note about Ethics

All headquarter staff and OCs interviewed for this research took part on voluntary basis, while the WROs and inmates participated following instructions from the OC. For the later group therefore, while many participated cheerfully and gave deep insights into the phenomenon of prisoner rehabilitation, I would be hesitant to affirm that they did so voluntarily as prescribed by research ethics (see for example Leedy & Ormrod, 2010, p. 101). It is my opinion that their participation was a dutiful response to instructions from above. In fact, one WRO was grudgingly shallow in her response, which gave me the impression that she was unwilling to participate. I had to terminate the interview with her after about 15 minutes. In another prison, I went to see the same officer on three different days because, first, she needed a whole day to read the question guide and prepare her response, even after she had had it for two days prior to that. Then she said she had forgotten about my appointment despite having written it herself in her diary; then because she needed to prepare for court on the day of the rescheduled appointment. She was finally able to give me the interview I needed, but in addition to appearing unwilling and bothered, her responses were quite shallow. Moreover, despite being in charge, she had the highest rate of non-response and the only one with the ‘I don’t know response’. This scenario underlines the importance of a concern with ethics around power relations, and how they manifest in social research. I believe this particular respondent eventually talked to me because I had a letter from her ‘bosses’ instructing that I must speak to staff at her level before interacting with any other staff.[28] In other words, as Alver and Øyen (2007, p. 25) note, this informant may have been influenced by the hierarchical structures she is subject to. Regardless of these hiccups, nobody received any compensation for their time or the information they provided, and none of them indicated any expectation for such.

Furthermore, there are ethical issues surrounding research with prisoners as respondents, and these arise out of the facility settings, rules and regulations, as well as the disempowered status of research participants. As observed by the Gostin et al (2007), prisoners face restrictions on liberty and autonomy, and have limited privacy. These factors act as barriers to the acquisition of voluntary informed consent and protection of privacy. This observation resonates very well with my experience. As alluded to earlier, inmates did not have the opportunity to choose whether to participate in the research or not. They received instructions to meet and give me the information I needed. Secondly, I held all interviews with inmates in the office of the WRO, in the presence of prison staff. On one or two occasions, the prison staff interjected in the discussion. In another instance, I experienced an argumentative exchange between two inmates who disagreed on the state and quality of the education program in Luzira Women. The one talking in favour was a long termer who had a cordial relationship with the warders and the one against was new and therefore still seeing things, possibly, as they really are, more or less as an outsider. In addition, generally, in every place I went on the prison premises, I accompanied by prison officer, usually a warder. This obviously may have affected the accuracy of responses I obtained. That is why it was also very important that I observe some processes to corroborate the responses from FGDs with inmates.

4.7.1. The Political Undertones in this Research

In seeking to understand why some of the respondents appeared hesitant to participate or give detailed responses, I asked one of my research participants[29] why I found problems getting some respondents to talk even when I had permission from the Commissioner General of Prisons to conduct the research. This participant’s response suggests that many people are not comfortable speaking to strangers because of some of the legislation in the country, which they perceive as intruding on their privacy. This includes the phone tapping legislation (see Kakungulu-Mayambala, 2008; Vision Reporter, February 27, 2011) and the public order management legislation (see Burnett, August 6, 2013; GoU, 2013) which have eroded people’s trust. Relatedly, there is a wide belief that there is always a probe going on, with some people misconstruing research as an investigation of sorts. Generally, people are sceptical about where information will go or what use it will be put to. Moreover, it is widely believed that once findings are critical of the system or establishment, respondents might be asked to explain their involvement in the research. This participant also alluded to the nature of information in security agencies. He noted that this information is often regarded as classified or restricted, and that express permission would have to be obtained to declassify the information. This is not helped by the access to information legislation (GoU, 2005), which is silent on the types of information to give or not give.

The foregoing discussion raises a number of different ethical issues. For example, there is an onus on the researcher to protect not only himself or herself, but also to protect (minimise risk of) the informants who may be nervous about the implications of their contribution (see Gillespie, n.d.). Secondly, there are the implications for the public record and the public dissemination of information. It might also explain why some topics are not being researched, and also the kinds of obstacles (legal, cultural, educational) that will need to be overcome to build up social research. It demonstrates the political and contested nature of research.

While these reflections came out of my primary research process, related issues have been raised in the wider methodological literature - about how research is political, how it can be constrained by wider forces, how it may often just reveal parts of the story, leaving much information undocumented (see for example Bryman, 2012; Clifford, 2005; Punch, 1998).

4.8. My Experience Researching in Uganda’s Prisons

Overall, my experience conducting research in prison was a jovial one. It was very clear however that anyone who chooses to interact with the prison system has to play by the rules, and be very patient. For example, in all the prisons I visited, my letter of permission to conduct research had already been delivered by headquarters prior to my visit. Nevertheless, I had to carry an original (my copy) and a photocopy to leave at every stop I made, including with the guards at the gate. I was asked many questions (near interrogation) in some of the prisons, particularly by the officers at the gate, not so much about my research but about issues that in my opinion were irrelevant. For example, officers asked what course I was doing; who was covering my academic costs; whether I had some connections to support their children’s education, and why I chose to research in prison of all places. The officers would pass my letter to each other, apparently reading it, and then asking me questions that indicated they had either not read it or not understood what they had read. All this happened at the gate before one of the officers would decide to go and inform the OC about my presence.

Having got into the prisons, I was struck by the complete lack of records and information kept in the institutions of the UPS. I literally failed to get any literature on the history of prisons generally or any background information on any of the prisons I visited. In one prison, the OC sent to me to the records office, but the officer there insisted the OC had the information. She tried to look through all the files but could not find anything on the general or background information to the prison. When I suggested that she check her computer for some annual reports or any report that could have historical information, she insisted that she had a new computer and was not sure whether old information had been backed up. In another prison, the WRO gave me some of his workshop notes (where he had more than one copy). At headquarters, respondents were eager to give me as much information as they could, but for some of the most crucial information that I needed – particularly documents of the Okware Directives[30] - no one in the entire office seemed to have a copy or remember where the last one was kept. In all the prisons I went to, staff, except the OCs of Arua and Murchison Bay, told me they were relatively new in their posts (between 4 months and 4 years) and therefore could not give very useful information about the history of their stations or how things there have been changing over time. My conclusion regarding this is that there is a lapse in preserving institutional memory, an issue that needs to be addressed.

In summary, this chapter has enumerated the methodological approach I adopted for this research giving reasons why I used specific methods with particular respondents. I have shown also that using multiple methods is helpful in filling information gaps and corroborating otherwise unclear, shallow, or controversial information. The chapter has also commented on my research experience and pointed out some ethical issues that are specific to researching in prison contexts. In the next chapter, I give a detailed account of my research findings basing of the key themes that emerged during data management and analysis. These are policy underpinnings to prisoner rehabilitation, rehabilitation programs provided by the UPS, a discussion of general observations that cut across all the programs and an analysis of the extent to which prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS fits the human rights framework of correctional practice.

5.0. findings and discussion

5.1. Introduction

In this research, I set out to map the kind of rehabilitation programs provided to prisoners in Uganda, who provides them and how they are organised; and, critically analyse the rehabilitation programs from the point of view of the human rights framework. This chapter details my findings and analysis in six subsections. In section 5.2, I briefly describe each of the five prisons that I physically visited. Section 5.3 enumerates the conceptual understanding of rehabilitation by key personnel in the UPS. In section 5.4, I discuss my findings regarding the policy arena that underlies prisoner rehabilitation by the UPS. Section 5.5 tackles the main question of this research, that is, the nature of prisoner rehabilitation, describing in detail each of the rehabilitation programs that the respondents mentioned. In section 5.6, I provide a discussion critical analysis of the crosscutting issues that I found to affect the effectiveness of prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS, and discuss whether it is indeed human rights based as some of the respondents asserted. I conclude the chapter with some observations regarding inconsistencies in some of the information I obtained.

5.2. Background to the Prisons Visited

In order to obtain information regarding prisoner rehabilitation in Uganda, I studied seven prisons, which provide a glance into the entire prison service in Uganda. I physically visited five, namely, Murchison Bay, Luzira Women, Arua Men, Arua Women, and Kitalya Prison Farm. I also had key informant and informal discussions, and reviewed documented information about two additional prisons, namely, Luzira Upper and Luzira Remand. I now discuss the characteristics of each of the five prisons I visited, as relayed to me by the respective officers in charge (OCs), and in one case, the Deputy OC.

First, I visited Arua Men. It was previously a Belgian prison under the Belgium Congo, but taken over by the Ugandan government in 1941 when the West Nile region was cut off from Congo and given to Uganda by the colonialists. According to the Deputy OC, Arua Men was constructed with a capacity of 250 but had a population of 796 prisoners as at 23rd June 2014 when I visited, and can therefore be seen as operating at three times above capacity. Of these 73 were convicts and 723 were remands. Of the remands, 274 had been committed to the high court waiting for fixing of their cases, 57 had not been committed, and 392 were petty offenders. Arua prison is the regional maximum-security prison, meaning that it is a reception centre for capital offenders from the whole of the West Nile region, but it sends capital offenders with sentences of twenty or more years to Luzira Upper.

The second prison I visited was Arua Women. It was established in 2012 after ethical issues arose regarding housing male and female prisoners in the same premises.[31] At the time of my visit on 25th June 2014, this prison had a population of 36 inmates, all of whom were convicted of capital offences.

Thirdly, I visited Murchison Bay prison. It was built as a custodial institution to keep convicted male petty offenders[32] and sick male prisoners sent from other prisons. It also has a hospital component (Murchison Bay Hospital) to treat not only all sick prisoners, but also members of the entire prison community[33] and its surroundings.[34] Due to over population in the Upper[35] and Remand[36] prisons, the prison population at Murchison Bay now includes remands and convicted capital offenders. At the time of this research, on 4th July 2014, the Officer in Charge (OC) of Murchison Bay reported that the prison was over populated with an inmate population of 1956 for the 600 spaces available. Of these 867 were remands while 1089 were convicts.

Luzira Women was the fourth prison I visited. It was opened in the 1970s, according to the OC, and had three wards with a capacity of 70 at that time. Overtime, the prison was expanded with four more wards and a maternity unit. The OC however noted that because of this expansion, she could not ascertain the current capacity of this prison. She observed that in the four years she has been in charge, the prison population increased from 298 inmates to 429 prisoners and 28 children as at 14th July 2014 when I visited. Of these, 255 were convicts (including 18 condemned)[37] and 174 were remands. Nevertheless, she insisted that the prison is neither over- nor under- populated. Because of its proximity to Murchison Bay Hospital and with its maternity unity, all sick female and pregnant prisoners from other prisons are sent here until they are well enough to return to their ‘mother’ prisons. At the same time, Luzira Women acts as the maximum-security prison for women who have committed capital offences from all over the country[38], and has a special section for them.

The fifth prison I visited was Kitalya Prison Farm. In the Ugandan context, a prison farm is a government investment for purposes of producing food for prisons, where wards are built to house prisoners sent there from other prisons to provide labour on the farm. Kitalya prison farm was intended to provide work for minimum-security prisoners, meaning that it is supposed to receive only convicts on short sentence or those whose long sentences are nearing completion. The primary objective of this facility is production, and currently has a capacity of 1000. However, according to the deputy OC, due to overcrowding and therefore the need to decongest other prisons, the population at Kitalya Prison Farm at the time of this research on 11th July 2014 was 968 prisoners, and includes both convicts (700) and capital offenders on remand, who have been committed to the high court (268). This means that in addition to production, the facility has to perform functions of security. The deputy OC noted that because of the nature of the farming (manual labour), this facility mostly receives low skilled, low, or non-educated prisoners.

Already, questions emerge regarding the rights of prisoners due to serious over-capacity issues. For instance, in all the men’s prisons that I visited, prisoners alluded to rapid spread of skin diseases. In fact, one prisoner told me that he believes he got a skin disease because of overcrowding, and his skin got rotten because he did not receive treatment. This self-report corroborated the Auditor General’s (2010) observation that prisoners are mixed in wards without due consideration of their medical status and are prone to contagious diseases. Additionally, over-capacity affects bedding for prisoners. As the ex-prisoner from Luzira Remand told me, prisoners sleep in shared dormitories, and due to overcrowding, they do not have beds: they either sleep on the bear floor or shared mattresses. This observation was also made by the Auditor General (2010), and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC, 2013) who noted that lack of beds and beddings is attributed to, among others, increased numbers of inmates in prisons leading to insufficient space for beds. Overcrowding therefore denies prisoners their basic rights and services compatible with human dignity.

5.3. Understanding of the Concept of Rehabilitation

The study sought to know how the UPS conceptualises rehabilitation both in policy documents and within its institutions, and whether this conceptualisation is premised within any academic thinking. I explored the UPS’ understanding of the term rehabilitation, its rehabilitative ideal, its rationale for delivering rehabilitation programs, and the ultimate aim of prisoner rehabilitation. This was done through my interviews with staff in the high echelons of management and across the various prisons. The Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer (SWRO), the Head of Policy and Planning, and the Commissioner in Charge of Training and Research generally understood prisoner rehabilitation to mean those actions and processes that restore the social functionality of those who are incarcerated for committing a crime. They argued that prisoners need to be transformed into useful citizens to make them better morally and ‘skill-wise’. As the SWRO put it,

“The ultimate aim of rehabilitation of prisoners by the UPS is to change prisoners’ mindsets, give them skills, and change their outlook so that they can survive without committing crime.”

Significantly, while all respondents across the study said that there was no academic thinking or theoretical principles behind delivering rehabilitation to prisoners in the UPS, the OC of Arua prison noted that the UPS has a human rights-centred vision and mission with the ultimate objective to protect society from criminal acts. This respondent noted UPS also has a mandate to provide humane custody of offenders following internationally acceptable standards, and it is within this mandate therefore that they offer rehabilitation to prisoners.

In its own institutions, the UPS prefers the term ‘social rehabilitation’ rather than rehabilitation, and according to a report of the ‘From Prison Back Home Project, “Social rehabilitation is the process of restoring an offender over time to a position of acceptable behaviour, attitude, and practice. It is aimed at restoring the offenders’ social functioning abilities so that they can have a productive, meaningful, and law-abiding life after serving a term in prison. It is social because the family and community have to be involved to ensure its success” (Omita-Okoth et al., 2011, p. 20).[39]

In an interview, Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer (SWRO) observed that the primary belief behind rehabilitation is that humans are capable of changing and prison should offer offenders the opportunity to change. Moreover, the UPS has a mandate to ensure that prisoners do not harm communities ‘again’ once released and that they become productive members of society. Otherwise, participants did not discuss at length the conceptualisation of rehabilitation with the UPS.

5.4. Policy Underpinnings to Prisoner Rehabilitation

The interview findings also suggest that the UPS has no specific policy or strategy on prisoner rehabilitation. According to the Head of Policy and Planning, “What is referred to as rehabilitation is a conglomeration of different projects designed in response to the current drive to refocus the UPS from being a purely penal institution with militarised tendencies to a correctional service that emphasises human rights and rehabilitation of offenders.”

The SWRO explained that the current penal approach has its roots in colonial and postcolonial times up to the 1960s and 70s, when the initial philosophy and emphasis of imprisonment was to inflict pain as a deterrent to committing crime. Corporal punishment and hard labour accompanied prison sentences to create fear of the law. However, with the emergence of the human rights movement internationally, calls for humane treatment of offenders became incessant around the same time the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Offenders (UNSMR) came into place in 1957. The SWRO added that, in response to the international calls, the first African (non European) [40] Commissioner of Prisons, Fabian Luke Okware, issued Directives in 1969 and 1970, establishing the Welfare and Rehabilitation Section within the prisons department; and defining its functions and goals in rehabilitation of prisoners (and promoting staff welfare).[41]

In a draft position paper written by the SWRO on redefining rehabilitation (UPS, 2011),[42] the Okware Directives are listed as:

1. Directive No.1 of April 1969: Definition of welfare roles and duties;
2. Directive No.3 of December 1969: Establishment of the welfare and rehabilitation section;
3. Directive No.4 of April 1970: Roles, duties, and services of prison welfare and rehabilitation staff.

My review of the position paper revealed that under directive No. 3 the newly established Welfare and Rehabilitation Section was visualised to be the vanguard of rehabilitation, reformation, reintegration, and aftercare of prisoners. When all the three Directives are synchronised, they prescribed the primary duty of the Welfare and Rehabilitation Section as to initiate, organise, and promote prisoners’ social welfare and rehabilitation programs. Specifically, the Okware Directives defined duties of welfare/ rehabilitation officers to include (but not limited to) promoting religious services, vocational programs, educational services, and offering counselling and guidance (UPS, 2011, p. 6).

These duties were not accompanied by guidelines of how the mentioned programs would be designed and delivered. Nevertheless, specific rehabilitation activities were conceived from these functions, and inspired by the 1955 UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners. In our interview, the SWRO lamented that due to the political instability between 1970 and 1986 that led to a near complete breakdown of government institutions, the Welfare and Rehabilitation Section and its functions did not develop. It was between 1987 and 1990 that the UPS, under Commissioner of Prisons Joseph Etima that the service began to revamp itself and reattempt rehabilitation services to prisoners. Therefore, an assessment of the scale and quality of rehabilitation in the Uganda’s prisons must take cognisance of the significant negative impact that the nation’s recent history of political upheaval and dictatorship had on the pace of policy and infrastructural development of the prison system.

Currently, the most relevant and influential policy document that provides some guidance regarding prisoner rehabilitation is the UPS Strategic Investment Plan (SIP III) covering the period 2012/13 to 2016/17. The Head of Policy and Planning at UPS headquarters provided this document to me. SIP III seeks to reform and transform the UPS into a modern correctional system through three priority strategic goals: (1) development of a correctional policy framework, which will focus on the rehabilitation functions of the UPS; (2) improved healthcare; and, (3) promotion of human rights of prisoners (UPS, 2012).

The SWRO, towards the development of this correctional policy, has written a ‘position paper’ in which he identifies strategies to strengthen the rehabilitation function of the UPS.[43] These include refocusing the UPS from a penal to a correctional institution, establishing a functional rehabilitation directorate with adequate experienced staff of relevant professions; and, designing appropriate and relevant rehabilitation modules.

These are only ideas in draft and clearly, a lot of thought still needs to be put if the service is to come up with an effective rehabilitation policy. The Head of Policy and Planning indicated that such a correctional policy, once completed, would have several sub-policies. So far, in January 2013, the UPS with support from the European Union has adopted the Prisoners’ Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (PVET) Policy Framework. My review of this policy framework (UPS, 2013) revealed that it seeks to provide better and clearer structures and mechanisms of PVET in all training centres of the UPS. It prescribes a structured approach to PVET while aligning it to the National Educational Strategy on Vocationalisation of Education and the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework (UVQF). The vision of the PVET policy framework is to “transform prisoners into skilled and economically productive persons who can fit well into the community upon release” (UPS, 2013, p. 11). The policy goal is to “transform prisons education and training towards provision of comprehensive vocational and entrepreneurship skills needed for their integration into society as reformed, economically productive individuals” (UPS, 2013, p. 11).

Overall, progress towards development of the correctional policy is slow. According to the UPS (UPS, 2012, p. 32), it was supposed to have been completed in the first implementation year of SIP III, that is, in the fiscal year 2012/13. Instead, the UPS developed a sub-policy, the PEVT policy framework but with assistance from the European Union. This suggests a lack of the necessary resources on the part of the UPS to independently develop a corrections policy. This resource challenge permeates the rehabilitation of prisoners, as I will discuss in section 5.6. In terms of quality, the guiding principles of the PVET policy are forward-looking. They are cognisant of the need to have programs that are relevant to labour market needs, and therefore seek to promote a wide range of available vocations for prisoners to choose. At the same time, the policy points towards encouraging freedom of choice where prisoners have the opportunity to choose programs that speak to their competence needs and qualification requirements. Nevertheless, having been only developed in 2013, it would be too ambitious to determine the effectiveness of the PVET policy at this time. In the next section, I discuss in detail the nature of rehabilitation given to prisoners and only attempt to show, among other things, the level of UPS’ progress towards implementing the PVET policy, bearing in mind however that most of the vocational training programs in Uganda’s prisons began long before the PVET policy was in place.

5.5. The Nature of Prisoner Rehabilitation in the UPS

Prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS is a function of its Rehabilitation and Social Welfare Division. The mandate of the division is to ensure social rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society as law-abiding citizens, while promoting the social welfare of both prisoners and staff (UPS, 2011, p. 10). To deliver this mandate, the Head of Policy and Planning said that UPS designs rehabilitative interventions in form of projects or activities based on the Okware Directives. In this section, I will limit myself to the descriptive aspect on this research; explaining what exactly constitutes prisoner rehabilitation, how it is being done, who receives rehabilitation and who is left out, and who delivers rehabilitation programs.

5.5.1. Education Programs

Chapter 3 pointed to the continuing emphasis of educational programs as a rehabilitative model. In Uganda, education to prisoners dates back to colonial times, and was meant to promote literacy and facilitate vocational training. Currently, the UPS bases its provision of education on section 57 (d) of The Prisons Act 2006 that entitles prisoners to “take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality;” and on the recognition that majority of prisoners have very low levels of education, if any. Although actual figures were not readily available during this research, interview respondents repeatedly emphasised this point; and some reports that were provided key informants (UPS, 2010) assert that majority of offenders in Uganda’s prisons are illiterate or semi-literate. This is similar to the observation by MacKenzie (2006) in chapter 3 alluding to a strong correlation between educational level and criminal activity internationally. A report of the “From Prison Back Home Project” for example shows that of the 581 prisoners handled by the project between 1994 and 2007, 21% had no formal education while 26% had only primary school education (Omita-Okoth et al., 2011). Unsurprisingly, some of the officials that I interviewed claimed that there is a connection between rates of crime and levels of literacy and education. A Warder at Arua Prison for example said,

“Many of the prisoners here have not gone to school or they dropped out in the lower classes due to problems in the home. They also cannot get money to pay for courses where they can get a skill. So they become idle and end up committing crime in an attempt to survive”

As such, the UPS is actively pursuing education programs as a core rehabilitative strategy for prisoners. The following comprise initiatives in the prison education program:

Functional Adult Literacy (FAL)

According to the Assistant Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer (AWRO) at Arua Prison, this program provides skills in reading, writing, and numeracy, to adults, integrated with practical knowledge and skills. In the prison context, FAL is provided to interested learners who are not able to join formal education mostly because they have never been to school or only attended preliminary (infant) schooling. FAL is used to usher such prisoners into formal or vocational education programs within the prison. The FAL program is delivered using FAL manuals and charts designed by the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development but the prison system does not work with this ministry to deliver the program. Crucially, the interviews with prison staff suggested that prisons do not typically receive resources to deliver FAL. Rather, they collaborate with NGOs and local government councils to modify and deliver the training in ways that are suitable to prevailing prison situations and resources.

For example, The AWRO at Kitalya Prison Farm said that he uses documentaries, films, and information brochures from NGOs to deliver FAL. He added that modes of training include lectures to large groups of prisoners – similar to community sensitisation[44], documentary viewing, group discussions, and music, dance and drama, as well as course tests. According to the AWRO in Arua prison, FAL concentrates on practical issues such as hygiene and sanitation, rights of children and women, counting, and basic arithmetic, among other topics. He further noted that to be able to deliver FAL, welfare staff and a few other interested prison officers attend Training of Trainers sessions. These in turn pass the knowledge on to some prisoners to increase the number of people who can participate in the delivery of this program. The OC of Arua prison lamented that since 2011, the UPS has intended to develop a Prisons FAL manual to guide officers in delivering this program but this had not been achieved yet. Thus, the delivery of FAL is ad hoc and inconsistent across the prisons visited for this study.

Primary Education

The Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer (SWRO) at the UPS headquarters mentioned that formal education was first introduced into the prison system in the mid 1990s, with the first school established in Luzira Upper Prison. It was formalised in the year 2000 when the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) designated the prison school a Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) centre so they could now host national Primary Leaving Examinations. All the prisons in the Luzira group of prisons as well as neighbouring prisons like Kigo use this centre for national examinations, although they conduct lessons within their respective premises. Other prisons further away from the centre, like Arua and Kitalya, register their candidates for UNEB examinations with the nearest government primary school, although papers are taken and written on the prison premises.

According to the SWRO, primary schooling in prisons, while recognised as beneficial, is treated as a private enterprise and is not supported by the MoES in terms of resources like teachers and other scholastic inputs. Because of this, the teaching staff for prison primary schooling are almost entirely prisoners who were either professional or practicing[45] teachers at the time of imprisonment, or other highly skilled prisoners (lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc) who are interested in teaching. These people are identified during the process of reception and admission of prisoners.

Notably, my interviews with the AWROs in Arua and Kitalya prisons confirmed that these informants act as also ‘head teachers and administrators’ of prison primary schools. Due to limited resources, they (have to) collaborate with nearby schools to obtain up-to-date syllabi, teaching curricula, textbooks, tests or examination papers, and other scholastic inputs. They also have to encourage and support the ‘inmate teachers’ to develop teaching plans and sustain their motivation to continue teaching. Because it is not always possible to obtain the scholastic materials, the prison primary schools find themselves depending mostly on text books and past examination papers, and pay more attention to preparing the pre-candidate and candidate classes of primary six and seven for the final national primary leaving examinations.[46]

Secondary Education

The Officer in Charge (OC) of Murchison Bay noted that prison secondary schooling at both Ordinary and Advanced (O’ and A’) levels is an old practice in the UPS. However, a review of a UPS report to the MoES (UPS, 2010) indicated that secondary schooling in prisons was only formalised at the Luzira Upper prison in the year 2000. In that year, the prison secondary school at the Luzira Upper prison had their first national O’ Level examinations and two years later, in 2002, it had the first sitting of the national A’ Level examinations. The official prison secondary schools are Luzira Upper prison secondary school, Luzira Women reformatory secondary school, Kigo reformatory secondary school (UPS, 2010), and, according to the SWRO, a new secondary school recently established in Gulu prison, in Northern Uganda.

All prison secondary schools are under the MoES on a public-private partnership basis, in the category of private schools. The ministry recruits teaching staff for these schools, who are supplemented by ‘inmate teachers’, prison staff teachers including the WRO as head teacher, and others outsourced from the Prison Staff College and Training School. According to the above-mentioned report (UPS, 2010), the outsourced teachers are part-timers while the prison staff teachers also have other duties to attend. This means that the teaching staff is unreliable in terms of availability to deliver quality education. To fill the gaps for the candidate classes, the Luzira Upper prison has in the past collaborated with NGOs to obtain the textbooks recommended by the MoES and the National Curriculum Development Centre (UPS, 2010, p. 16). They have also received regular support from the Franciscan Missionary Sisters to hire teachers from neighbouring schools to help complete the syllabi and prepare learners for final national examinations (UPS, 2010, p. 20).

I was not able to establish from the interviews how many learners are currently participating in secondary schooling. A review of a July 2010 UPS report to MoES however indicated that at that time enrolment in the Luzira Upper secondary school from senior one to senior six was 213, that of Luzira Women reformatory school from senior one to senior six was 49, and that of Kigo reformatory school was 15, only in senior one. The report also indicates that candidates who completed O’ Level increased from 9 in the year 2000 to 38 in the year 2005, and decreased in subsequent years to an average of 26 candidates by the year 2009. Those who completed A’ level increased from 7 in the year 2000 to 40 in the year 2008 and then decreased to 26 in the year 2009 (UPS, 2010). The reasons for the reduction in enrolment were not given, but from the discussions that I had with the SWRO at UPS headquarters, student numbers depend on the prison population, education levels, and requirements of prisoners in a given school year.

Tertiary Education

The UPS established an Inmates University Study Centre at Luzira Upper prison in 2009. The centre came into collaboration with Makerere University Business School (MUBS) to offer a diploma course in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. It is an open learning centre where all universities are free to conduct various courses that are beneficial to inmates. So far, there have been five graduations in the Luzira upper prison, including one, which happened in August 2014 during the time of writing this report.

Through this online open learning facility, one inmate of Luzira Women (who was one of the participants in the focus group discussion with prisoners) and two from Luzira Upper prisons, as well as one ex-prisoner formally at Luzira Upper received a scholarship from the African Prison Project[47] to pursue a diploma in law with the University of London. The four students graduated in August 2014 (alluded to above) and three of them, including the inmate in Luzira Women have proceeded to enrol for an online Bachelor’s degree in law from the same university (See The DailyMonitor, August 21, 2014).

According to the participants in a focus group discussion with inmates in Luzira Women, there is no progression for women inmates who complete secondary school and only one woman (referred to above) has attended a tertiary program. I sought to understand why the online facility generally and the MUBS program specifically are not being implemented in the women’s prison as an independent entity. The OC of Luzira Women responded that MUBS has only promised to provide courses to this prison in the future, depending on availability of reasonable numbers of learners to undertake diploma or degree courses, as is the arrangement with the Luzira Upper. She added,

“There is also no infrastructure and logistics for the online learning program at this unit. It would be expensive for any interested university to come here and offer courses to inmates. It means those universities would have to invest in some form of basic infrastructure before they can effectively deliver the online courses. Moreover, not every inmate would be interested in tertiary education. Others choose to do vocational programs.”

In the Arua prisons and Kitalya Prison Farm, the WROs indicated that idea of tertiary education is not yet on the agenda. They reason that because these prisons do not even have secondary schooling, to consider implementation of post secondary education would be a fallacy. Moreover, as the deputy OC of Kitalya Prison Farm noted, her unit receives prisoners with low or no education and skills for purposes of working on the farms. In Arua prison, the AWRO said that when they have prisoners who have completed secondary education, they encourage them to enrol in the available vocational programs. Murchison Bay does not have this online learning facility either. However, according to the WRO there, if they have willing participants, guards escort them to the Luzira Upper to attend classes and other online discussions that may be taking place. At the time of this research, I was not made aware of any prisoners at Murchison Bay that could be participating in the tertiary education program.

5.5.2. Vocational and Skills Training

In section 3.2, we saw that vocational training has been common in prisons since inception of penitentiaries, and the objective at the time was to prepare prisoners for post-prison employment. This objective was premised on the evidence of strong association between unemployment and crime. Similarly, vocational training has been practiced in Uganda’s prisons for a long time. According to both the SWRO and the Commissioner in Charge of Training and Research at UPS headquarters, the most important reason for the UPS vocational training program is to enable inmates acquire skills that will enable them engage in economic activities for self-sustenance after release. In addition, these informants confirmed, it is hoped that during the process of training, prisoners would achieve behaviour and attitude change towards a life without further involvement in crime. The PVET policy framework (UPS, 2013) further notes that one of the cardinal objectives of vocational training is to offer employment to long serving prisoners as an opportunity for meaningful use of their time in prison.

Interviews with respondents across the study revealed that generally, the UPS offers training in a variety of vocational enterprises, the most prominent of which being carpentry and joinery; metal wielding and fabrication, bricklaying and construction; tailoring; handcraft; shoe making; spinning, weaving, and embroidery; salon training; and, art. The bulk of these programs are found in the Luzira group of prisons[48] where the initial programs started, and in Kigo prison[49], which is quite close to Luzira. The only skills training programs carried out in other prisons are carpentry, farming, and bricklaying and construction for male prisoners; and horticulture and handcraft for female prisoners.

The Deputy OC of Kitalya Prison Farm indicated that the UPS procures and supplies training materials, for example wood, weaving thread and other materials to workshops in the different prisons. However, because these supplies do not meet the requirements of the different prisons, prisons solicit support from nongovernmental agencies. For example, the AWRO of Arua prison said that the carpentry workshop in there has consistently received support and been equipped by the Comboni Missionaries. The prison keeps the materials for use at a time when they receive an order.

All the Welfare and Rehabilitation staff that I interviewed indicated that training takes place in an apprenticeship mode. Learners work with instructors on specifically pre-ordered products, for example, school or prison furniture in the case of carpentry; or a school and prison buildings in the case of bricklaying and construction. The instructors work with groups of learners at a time, showing them what to do and letting them practice each step of the process. The AWRO of Arua prison reported that each carpentry and joinery training session accommodates a maximum of 30 learners at a time out of the 796 prisoners.[50] When these have completed the process (which is not time bound), another group of 30 starts, but depending on whether there are orders for products to be made. More often than not, the orders are few (for example one sofa set) and are made by prison staff. In few situations as was the case in Arua prison, Comboni Missionaries from time to time make orders for furniture to supply the schools they have built in the region. The AWRO of Arua indicated that such large orders were rare, and the prisoners do not have the liberty to use the remaining wood for learning purposes. The same process applies to the bricklaying and construction training as indicated by the AWRO of Kitalya Prison Farm. When no one has requested prison labour to construct his or her building, there will be no learning. All respondents indicated that almost all of the buildings that were constructed by prisoners so far belong to the UPS, either in expansion of accommodation or learning facilities for prisoners.

For handcrafts however, my observation at Arua Women and Luzira Women gave me the impression that there is usually enough material to make something. Indeed these women engage in handcraft making not only as part of vocational training, but also as a pastime. Participants in the focus group in Luzira women said that in the morning hours, they produce crafts for the prison canteen to generate resources for the prison, and in the afternoons, they make crafts for their own personal income, which they sell to outsiders on visitation days. On the contrary, according to a Warder in Arua Women, the inmates spend all their afternoons making crafts even if there is no one to buy them.

In terms of variety of training programs, there are fewer options for women than for men’s prisons. For example, a Warder in Arua Women said that there are virtually no rehabilitation programs there. Officers collaborated with civil society organisations to obtain materials for weaving mats and baskets so that the women could have something to occupy them and learn during their free time. Again, instructors are fellow inmates. The only other activity that they engage in is digging a small garden of vegetables. This means that in the dry season when there is no planting or weeding, they are typically redundant all day long. When I questioned the AWRO of Arua about the fairness of this, and why for instance there are no FAL classes and primary schooling in Arua Women, he said, “Almost all the women in this prison have virtually no literacy skills to the extent that we tried to deliver FAL to them but they could not cope. Moreover, because we use FAL as an entry into primary schooling, there is no alternative mechanism to propel them forward. Again, most of the reasons for these women to get into prison have to do with poverty. Their primary need is income as they come from very poor socioeconomic backgrounds. So we think that vocational programs that would benefit their income generating opportunities are most appropriate for them. Still, we are continually thinking about how we can introduce better programs for them.”

The exception is with Luzira Women, which, according to the FGD there, has many programs that are not found in other women’s prisons for example, certificate courses in hairdressing, tailoring and knitting, horticulture, and zero grazing (animal husbandry). Regardless of this however, it still has fewer programs than the men’s prisons in Luzira.

I think that this difference in the variety of programs is because Luzira Women is proximate to prison headquarters, in the city. In addition, it is a maximum-security prison meaning that many of the inmates there are long-termers and therefore would need a variety of programs to occupy them. Moreover, from my observation, the socioeconomic class of inmates there is superior to those further away from the city, and I suppose the UPS is careful not to agitate them. Indeed, I sensed a degree of aggression among some of the respondents in the FGD who have long sentences. They told me that this unit did not have a secondary school until recently. They campaigned for introduction of secondary schooling in their prison in 2010 because they could not understand why they were neglected, or even subjected to attending classes at Luzira Upper, which is for men.

Regarding instructors, the same approach applies as in the formal education programs. By July 2010, the entire UPS establishment comprising 230 prisons with 30,068 prisoners (UPS, 2012) had 43 instructors and 12 artisans (UPS, 2010), the majority of whom were stationed in Luzira group of prisons. These instructors and artisans are usually prison officers hired in other positions but having prior training and/or experience in the different vocations, and are therefore assigned to work on the vocational programs as part of their routine duties. Specifically, Arua prison had two such officers, Murchison Bay about six, and Kitalya Prison Farm none. These then act as the principal instructors, assisted by inmates identified to have the respective knowledge and skills in the different vocations during the process of assessment and admission of prisoners. Recent learners who might be interested in teaching their colleagues (fellow inmates) later supplement this number.

Concerning organisation of the training programs within the UPS, there is generally no specific module or organised scheduling of the vocational courses. Learning progress and completion of the courses is dependent on the products being made, the speed of learners, and availability of both instructors and learning facilities. In Arua and Kitalya prisons, formal education and vocational training use the same facilities thereby affecting the scheduling of the training sessions. Interviews with the SWRO revealed that the UPS has collaborated with the Business Technical and Vocational Education Training (BTVET) initiative in the MoES with an attempt to align the PVET to the national BTVET curriculum. At the same time, the UPS reached an agreement with the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) to carry out trade testing and licensing for learners who have completed their PVET program. The aim is to ensure that at the time of release, the prisoners have a certificate that licences them to start a trade of their own or seek relevant employment. While these collaborations are good, the interviews suggest that they have only been effective in the Luzira Upper prison where vocational training is more organised and laboratories and workshops fairly equipped.

5.5.3. Farming as Rehabilitation

Many prisons in Uganda engage inmates in some form of farming activity whether they are at a prison farm or not. At the prison farm, the primary activity for prisoners is to provide labour for agriculture and animal husbandry for the production of food for prisoners. In other prisons, farming is an activity that officers claim is for rehabilitative purposes, but often happens on farms belonging to community members and not the prison.

The Deputy OC of Kitalya Prison Farm insisted that by engaging in the farming activities, prisoners learn that someone can earn a living through farming as an income generating activity. She added that in addition to growing food for prison use, inmates learn relatively modern ways of farming from planting to storage, for example, preparing nursery beds, growing crops in straight lines, horticulture on small pieces of land, poultry management, and zero grazing, among others. She further argued that many prisoners have no background whatsoever in farming or using any form of farming tools, which contributes to redundancy and therefore propensity to commit crime. For such prisoners therefore, she maintains that farming becomes an important rehabilitation activity, particularly for those with low education and skills for engaging in alternative economically viable activities.

Rehabilitation or Occupying time?

During my discussion with the OC of Murchison Bay, the Deputy OC of Kitalya Prison Farm and a Warder in Arua Men, on the issue of engaging prisoners in farming as a rehabilitative program, I became aware of the consistent reference about the need to keep prisoners busy in order to minimise redundancy and boredom. This suggests that while the UPS has good intentions in providing rehabilitation to prisoners, there is still a thin line between the rehabilitation objective and merely keeping inmates busy or freeing them from redundancy, particularly where farming is concerned. Levels of idleness are high: on one hand, there are too many prisoners and too few rehabilitation programs, on the other, as earlier mentioned, programs only admit convicted prisoners, yet the prison population is mostly comprised of people on remand many of whom have been in prison for five or more years[51]. My research is in agreement with the John Howard Society of Alberta (1996) who commenting on prisons in the UK, noted that in situations where overcrowding exists majority inmates are engaged in ‘daily idleness’. For example in Arua Men, Murchison Bay, and Kitalya Prison Farm, I observed that many inmates just sat on the ground holding idle conversations and others silently staring into space. Indeed, the OC of Murchison Bay and the AWROs of Kitalya and Arua prisons decried the high levels of redundancy saying that the prison did not have enough activities to keep inmates occupied, yet the prison grounds are not large enough to allow recreational activities involving large numbers of inmates. In fact, the Deputy OC Kitalya argued, “Those who are taken out to work outside prison are very lucky. They find something to fill the otherwise empty prison days.”

Regarding the question of rehabilitation versus occupying time, the findings of my research were in sync with Harold S. Long (1990). Commenting about his life in an American prison, he noted that while activity-based programs were sloppily run and seldom up to par with current standards, they were nevertheless among the few alternatives to inactivity, and the prisoner was in a ‘take it or leave it’ situation (cited in O'Riordan, 2008). Indeed, the AWRO at Luzira women said, “Prisoners must be placed in some sort of program to keep them occupied.”

The OC of Murchison Bay also confirmed the depth and scale of this general problem of redundancy. Commenting on the fact that the available programs are limited in scope and may therefore not meet the rehabilitative needs of especially the highly skilled prisoners, the OC remarked, “If they do not want to participate in any of the available programs, they are sent out to dig. If they refuse to go out to dig, they just sit around doing nothing. Others clean the prison premises. We cannot really force them.”

5.5.4. Other Rehabilitation Programs

My fieldwork suggests that the UPS offers a variety of other rehabilitation programs or services on small scale and not widely spread across many prisons. The extent to which they are implemented depends on the level of the prison (national, regional, or local government), number of prisoners in a given prison, availability of staff with relevant professionalism and skills, and availability of prisoners willing to volunteer in implementing these programs. The programs include:


This program is widely spread in all prisons in the country. It is intended for spiritual and moral rehabilitation of prisoners. To be able to deliver this program, the welfare and rehabilitation office links up with relevant religious institutions (churches, mosques, or other Faith Based Organisations), and requests them to conduct regular religious interventions in prisons. All prisoners are free to practice religious faiths of their choice and rituals like fasting, holding mass, and celebrating religious feasts such as Christmas, Easter, or Eid.

As a rehabilitative intervention, some prisoners receive training in pastoral functions so they can lead prayer sessions, and provide religious and spiritual counselling. The assistant WRO at Kitalya Prison Farm said that it is mandatory for prisoners to affiliate to some form of religious or spiritual grouping, which includes cultural groups.[52] During my discussions with the prisoners in Luzira Women, their comments suggested that religious engagement gives them new life, prepares them for a future without bitterness, and helps them acquire life skills such as tolerance and optimism.

Library Services

Prisons are encouraged to operate libraries where inmates can access information through newspapers, books, computer, internet, television, and radio services. In the prisons I visited for this study, I found that the libraries were simply shelves in the office of the WROs, or the Deputy OC in the case of Luzira Women. The books, which are mostly supplied by religious institutions and willing individuals through networking with government, lack in variety of subjects that would speak to and interest the wide range of prisoners’ academic and social backgrounds. They are typically religious self-help books, with few recreation books such as novels. Moreover, while newspapers were available, the information therein is censored so that officers remove any information that they deem improper for prisoners’ consumption. Depending on the resources of a given prison, and whether there is constant supply of electricity, prisoners can have access to television, radio, and video all day long.

Psychosocial Support

Programs comprising psychosocial support should be akin to cognitive therapies discussed in chapter 3, which focus of human change through demonstrated behavioural outcomes. In Uganda’s case, psychosocial support refers to prisoners’ rehabilitation that pertains to their state of psychological, mental, and social wellbeing. My research suggests that approaches to psychosocial support in Uganda’s prisons are ad hoc, inconsistent, and shallow. They include WROs listening to prisoners’ day-to-day problems and complaints and trying to find workable solutions to them. The WRO of Murchison Bay said that common issues include personality conflicts that disrupt peace and security in the prison, family issues, and uncertainty about the future. They also include the need for contact with the outside world and visitation rights, legal advice for those who are on remand and have no lawyers or wish to plea bargain, medical issues, and career concerns for those who are due for release, as well as fears of returning to communities following release. She added that because of the uniqueness of the issues, problem management is individualised, with responses often varied and non-standard. Where common issues emerge, counselling and guidance sessions are carried out for groups of at least 20 prisoners, usually in the form of group sensitisation process. The officers I interviewed in the other prisons indicated that such sensitisation processes also happen in their prisons but tend to be unstructured and dependent on whether the WROs had free time. Furthermore, as the AWRO of Luzira Women indicated,

“Sometimes there is no one among the staff with requisite knowledge and skills to discuss certain topics that would improve life skills of prisoners. We often need to solicit support from civil society organisations. Many of them are willing to provide free information but require that their staff are supported in terms of logistics like fuel or transport costs to the prisons, and out-of-pocket allowances for the days spent working with prisoners. Unfortunately the prisons do not have resources for this; so many prisoners’ information needs remain unattended to.”

Interviews with prison staff across various units also noted that other aspects of psychosocial support include HIV&AIDS training, management, and counselling; parenting workshops for women prisoners; and ‘behaviour change’ sessions. There was no information in terms of manuals or reports from the various prisons to verify this. However, some respondents in the FGD at Luzira Women said they had attended HIV&AIDS counselling training sessions. In fact, I was able to look at three certificates of an inmate who was not part of the FGD but was talking to a lawyer during my visit to the Deputy OC’s office. The certificates were for HIV&AIDS counselling, Training of Trainers in basic legal information, and Parenting.

Music, Dance and Drama (MDD), sports, and cultural activities are also used for therapeutic purposes and life skills development. The AWRO of Kitalya Prison Farm argued that because games are governed by rules and regulations, prisoners learn to abide and interact with others harmoniously. Through MDD and other cultural activities, prisoners work with the WROs to remind each other about cultural norms and values, the dos and don’ts of daily life, ensuring that prisoners somehow remain connected to their cultural roots even when in incarceration. The experiences and life skills gained in these activities would then be useful in the life after release.

Regarding mental health rehabilitation, the OC of Murchison Bay noted that the state of psychosocial and mental health care in prisons reflects the problems in the mainstream society. He observed that at the time of this study, the entire Luzira prison establishment, including the Murchison Bay prison hospital had one psychiatric clinical officer to take care of the entire prison and staff population. They had to hire psychiatrists from the nearby Butabika mental hospital to see prisoners for forensic investigation purposes only. The WRO of Murchison Bay added that on occasion, during student internship periods, the prison uses the services of psychological social workers from Makerere University, mostly to prepare prisoners for release and integration into society. The OC of Arua prison corroborated this information. He reported that prisoners with mental health or psychiatric needs in his unit are supposed to be referred to Butabika mental hospital but this does not always happen. According to him, a psychiatric nurse mostly attends to such prisoners, but because of overwhelming numbers,[53] she regularly manages the situation by sedating the patients to restore calmness in the units.

Concerning the process of identifying prisoners that need mental health rehabilitation, all the OCs interviewed for this study indicated that each ward has a group of five to seven leaders (inmate prefects) whose responsibilities include looking out for disruptive or depressed behaviour among prisoners, or any sign of psychological and mental challenges. Otherwise, there is neither mental nor medical assessment to determine respective needs of prisoners, an issue that was earlier noted by the Auditor General (2010, p. 17). The identified cases are then reported to the welfare office for appropriate action. Often, because of staffing challenges, prisoners are encouraged to help each other in coping with psychosocial needs. This again points to the ad hoc and inconsistent servicing and support infrastructure across the prison system.

5.6. Discussion

My discussion in this section provides a critical analysis of the issues that cut across the rehabilitation programs that I talk about in the foregoing section. They centre on how programs are designed and scheduled; whether inmates who contribute to delivering the programs or those who engage in economically productive prison work are remunerated as stipulated in the Prisons Act 2006; and I also provide a critical commentary on issues of infrastructure, staffing and resourcing for rehabilitation programs. Overall, this section seeks to offer an exploratory analysis of key issues that emerged from my fieldwork. These issues relate to the operation of rehabilitation programs and appear to have relevance across the prisons I visited.

5.6.1. Program Design

My discussions with Head of Policy and Planning, and the SWRO at UPS headquarters regarding social rehabilitation (and social reintegration) of offenders, and my review of the UPS Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) III revealed that the prevailing rehabilitation process is not anchored in any rehabilitation-reintegration model. For example, while educational programs are designed and delivered according to the national curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and Sports, schooling goes on in the evenings and weekends, throughout the year, without breaking for holidays. According to the ‘inmate teachers’ in Arua prison with whom I spoke, this is done as a remedial strategy to cover up for lessons missed and scarcity of training materials, so that learners can catch up on the syllabus. Moreover, many times teaching periods coincide with other prison programs causing frequent absenteeism.

Vocational training programs completely lack a framework to guide rehabilitation processes. They are not underpinned by a specific rehabilitation model, as alluded to already, rehabilitation-friendly infrastructure is limited, professional rehabilitation staff are generally lacking, and prisoner decision-making regarding what programs to attend is limited. The UPS Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) III, in discussing the most binding constraints for the service, notes that within the prisons, Reception Boards, which are supposed to be critical in assessing offenders’ individual needs and their placement in appropriate trades, are not functional (UPS, 2012). In any case, the existing rehabilitation programs are not sufficient, neither are they comprehensive enough to offer wholesome and meaningful rehabilitation. They do not follow any particular curricula, and there is not enough variety of programs to cater for the wide range of prisoners’ rehabilitation needs. Consequently, on one hand offenders are often placed in trades they do not like and imparted with skills that are not compatible with their reintegration needs. On the other hand, a certain class of prisoners misses out completely on rehabilitation processes. This mostly (not entirely) comprises the ‘remand’ prisoners who constitute the majority of inmates.

In the latter case, my interview with the OC of Murchison Bay revealed that the available rehabilitation programs are typically for low educated, low skilled prisoners. There is nothing to offer highly skilled prisoners such as lawyers, accountants, engineers, managers, and any such others. He noted that the officers try to involve these kinds of prisoners in leadership positions to help maintain discipline. If they wish, they can volunteer as teachers or instructors. Lawyers in incarceration often volunteer to educate fellow inmates about the law, help them draft their defence arguments, and coach them on how to talk in court. Beyond this, highly skilled prisoners can only effectively engage in recreational (art, crafts, MDD, sports) and religious activities but are otherwise mostly idle. The OC noted that it is difficult to keep these prisoners motivated, and even if the prison had some ideas and wanted to implement an innovative rehabilitative program for such prisoners, it would not be possible, as individual prisons have no autonomy for such innovation. They would have to write a proposal to headquarters and wait for approval and funding.

The limited variety of programs also means that the majority of prisoners are redundant a lot of the time. This also rises out of the limited space to accommodate those who are interested in participating in the available programs at any given time. As such, in the men’s prisons, inmates can only attend one program, for example, metal works, and fabrication. Once they have completed that one program they are not allowed to attend any other such as carpentry. This is done so that as many prisoners as possible have an opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation program. The exception is with the transition from primary and secondary education to a vocational program.

The scenario plays out differently in the women’s prison. The AWRO Luzira Women said that highly skilled prisoners had to be placed in some program so that they are not idle, as all prisoners must be kept busy. In addition, inmates who participated in the FGD said they have the liberty to attend all programs available, participating in one at a time. The AWRO added that this is possible mostly because of much fewer numbers of women than men in prison, but also it is believed that the more trades they know the better it will be for them after prison because it is often harder for women, more so ex-convicts to find employment in Uganda.

5.6.2. Infrastructure

One of the issues that were raised by all respondents was the poor or complete lack (in some prisons) of infrastructure for rehabilitation programs. According to a report by the UPS to the MoES (UPS, 2010), the entire prison establishment in Uganda had 14 operational prisons vocational training centres: 4 in Luzira, and others in Mbale, Tororo, Jinja, and Soroti in Eastern Uganda; Masindi and Rukungiri in Western Uganda; Kitalya, Masaka, and Kigo in the central region; and, Lira and Gulu in Northern Uganda. The report noted that these units had workshops with varying levels of machines and equipment. I observed for instance that in Kitalya Prison Farm, the carpentry workshop was only a shed in the prison compound, and there was hardly any equipment, rendering learners generally redundant. In Arua Men, although the carpentry workshop was better equipped due to support from the Comboni Missionaries, I noticed that it was in the same room as two of the primary school classes.

The formal education infrastructure was not any better. The UPS report (2010) noted that the Luzira Upper prison secondary school was relatively well established with 6 classrooms, 2 computer and 1 science laboratories, 2 student libraries, and staff accommodation within the prison staff quarters. The classrooms, laboratories, and libraries had sufficient furniture to sit about 65 learners at a time. The science laboratories had basic equipment, and the school received assistance from various charities that equip it with up-to-date textbooks (UPS, 2010).

The other prisons I visited for this study were not as fortunate as Luzira Upper was. For example in Murchison Bay, Arua Men, and Luzira Women, I observed that some learners were attending classes under trees, which, according to the WROs and inmates, was attributable to the inadequate state or complete lack of classrooms. It was reported that if there is any free room that can be used for learning, the candidate classes of P.6 and P7 take priority[54]. In Arua Men, the inmates revealed that classes are usually mixed, for example a carpentry class together with P.6 and P.7 in one room, facing different directions. According to inmate volunteer teachers in Arua Men, this happens for two reasons: first, there is a lack of learning space. Second, due to a small number of teachers and inability to complete the syllabus in time for final national examinations, the same teacher takes two classes at a time moving from one to the next within the same lesson period.

Overall, this suggests that even with enlistment of ‘inmate teachers’ (or instructors in the case of vocational training) there are still not enough staff to deliver rehabilitation programs; which in turn affects the quality of education that can be delivered. Indeed the ‘inmate head teacher’ of Arua prison complained about being overworked and tired most of the time, and frustrated that he and his colleagues were not being remunerated as provided for in the prisoners’ earning scheme (UPS, n.d.-b). At the same time, this is also related to the issue of occupying time, and being in a ‘take it or leave it situation’ as Long (1990) observed. I asked the ‘inmate head teacher’ and his colleagues at Arua prison why they did not quit if they felt frustrated with the way things were happening. He responded (with his colleagues nodding in agreement),

“We know it is frustrating. We feel the unfairness of not being paid. But we are hopeful because they have promised to pay. Again, it is better to wake up every morning knowing there is something you are going to do to occupy the day than sitting there idling and doing nothing. At least when we go to sleep at night, we are tired and can fall asleep. Some people cannot fall asleep because they are not tired. Also, it helps to know we are helping others who need to be educated. We are happy to offer the service.”

5.6.3. Staffing

Here I will limit myself to the roles and functions of Welfare and Rehabilitation Officers (WROs) who are the key implementing staff for prisoner rehabilitation within prisons. The information included in this discussion was relayed to be through the interviews with Assistant Welfare and Rehabilitation Officers (AWROs) of Arua, Luzira Women, and Kitalya Prison Farm, and to a very limited extent the WRO of Murchison Bay. I discuss it collectively because their responses were too similar to warrant separate referencing. In unique situations, I refer to the actual respondent.

The WROs are expected to have a minimum of a Bachelors Degree while AWROs should have an Advanced Diploma in humanitarian studies. Typically, they have academic qualifications in social work, social sciences, community psychology, counselling, development studies, and very rarely, law. In addition, at the time of their appointment, they are supposed to have skills and prior experience in counselling, lobbying, communication, mobilisation, problem identification and interpretation, and, peace building and conflict resolution.

To prepare and enable them carry out their duties effectively, all WROs undergo training in the Prison Training School and Staff College for a period of three to nine months. Here they are introduced to theories and approaches to prison social work, basic legal concepts and paramilitary training. In addition, the UPS organises regular staff workshops to address such issues as human rights, prisoner rehabilitation, counselling, social integration, networking with Ministries and other Government Agencies (MGAs), as well as nongovernmental organisations. Moreover, the UPS encourages academic upgrading and it was evident at the time of this study that a number of staff were pursuing advanced studies related to their work.

WROs are responsible for the welfare of both staff and prisoners. As regards prisoners’ welfare, their work is supposed to be administrative and supervisory. They receive, classify, and admit prisoners, ascertaining their place of origin, age, academic background, and, professional or career experience. They also brief prisoners about the available rehabilitation programs and inquire about the prisoners’ rehabilitative interest while in prison. Beyond this, they are not directly involved in the processes of implementing rehabilitation programs such as teaching or training. Their responsibility is to oversee the smooth running of these programs, ensuring availability of instructors and training materials or equipment.

However, while WROs are not directly involved in the main rehabilitation programs of education and vocational training, the bulk of the other small scale, yet numerous rehabilitative interventions falls on them. Particularly, with virtually no mental health or psychosocial professionals in the prisons, the WROs become the primary mental health workers. The WROs I interviewed for this study said that they provide counselling and guidance to prisoners (and staff) on a day-to-day basis on a variety of issues ranging from need for social support to severe mental health challenges that have not yet been referred for expert care.

Furthermore, in all the prisons I visited for this research, I found that all the WROs there were also paralegals who pursue justice for prisoners. They work with police, courts, legal aid agencies, and private lawyers to follow prisoners’ files to ensure their cases can be scheduled for hearing and sentencing. In addition, they hold sensitisation meetings with prisoners, educating them about their legal entitlements; and linking poor, non-represented remand prisoners to legal aid agencies for representation. To perform this function well, they need to have a good grasp of the law. Some, for example the WRO at Murchison Bay, have attended a diploma course in law at the Law Development Centre (LDC) in Kampala, while others have been exposed to basic legal knowledge and procedures through workshops organised by the UPS or legal aid agencies.

Again, the interviews suggest that WROs also perform social reintegration functions for prisoners due for or those already released. These include pre-release, on-release and aftercare services, preparing communities to receive released prisoners, individual and family counselling, group counselling with other relatives and community members, and, community reconciliation processes through police and local leaders.

With this wide range of duties and responsibilities, it was unfortunate to note that there was only one AWRO to take care of both Arua Men and Arua Women prisons, and one AWRO Kitalya Prison Farm. The Luzira group of prisons had one WRO who I found at Murchison Bay, and an AWRO at each of the other prisons (Luzira Women, Luzira Upper, and Luzira Remand As expected therefore, the staff to prisoner population ratio is very high. In fact, this was also raised as one of the binding constraints in delivering rehabilitation to prisoners. The SIP III (UPS, 2012) noted that while each inmate is supposed to be attached to a social worker, in 2010 the entire UPS had social workers in only 50 out of over 230 prisons. As such, only 20% of rehabilitation activities were covered and the ratio of social worker to prisoner at that time was 1:1500 (UPS, 2012), which renders the work of WROs, who must compensate for social workers’ absence, very challenging and inefficient.

5.6.4. Prisoner Participation and Remuneration

According to the OC of Murchison Bay, UPS regulations prescribe that only convicted prisoners are supposed to attend rehabilitation programs and engage in productive work. The main reason for this, said a warder at Arua Men, is that because their sentences are fixed, it is easy to engage the convicted prisoners in specific, time-bound programs with confidence that they will complete the courses. Commenting particularly on the category of prisoners engaged in work outside prison walls, for example on prison or community farms, the deputy OC of Kitalya argued that unlike remands and committals, the propensity to escape is lower for convicts because they now know when they will be discharged from prison. They work towards shortening of their sentence or completing without issues of indiscipline cropping up. She added that even in the prison farm, only convicts with short or near-end sentences are taken to work outside prison walls. Moreover, as the OC of Arua observed, the time schedule for remands within prison is unpredictable. Court can summon and release them at any time. Engaging them in rehabilitation programs would therefore create high participant turnover, which is a waste of resources. Besides, if court pronounced them innocent, UPS would not have the mandate to follow them up to see how their learning is helping them outside prison.

There is obviously an exception to this regulation. Due to large numbers of inmates who spend many years on remand, prison authorities must find effective ways of occupying them. Mostly, they engage them in farm work outside prison walls, but under very tight security to minimise escapes. Otherwise, they are encouraged to participate in religious and recreational activities, and assigned non-productive work such as cleaning prison premises and cooking.

According to the OC of Arua prison, regarding incentivising the rehabilitation process to keep prisoners motivated to attend, the ideal situation is that when convicted prisoners have completed a particular rehabilitation course, they are incorporated into the production process, i.e. start working in prison industries or farms, or become instructors in the different rehabilitation programs. He added that in order to motivate them to work – which is also part of the rehabilitation process – prisoners are entitled to payment and a reduction (remission) of their sentence by a third.

A review of workshop notes obtained from the UPS Staff College and Training School (UPS, n.d.-b) and the service’s Strategic Investment Plan (UPS, 2012) revealed that prisoner payment is guided by an earning scheme in which all convicted prisoners are entitled to participate. The earning scheme is categorised in three grades: Grade C is for unskilled labour. Members in this grade earn Ushs. 100 per day worked. Disciplined and hardworking unskilled workers can be promoted to Grade B, which is specifically for prisoners of good conduct who are semi-skilled. Members in this grade earn a daily wage of Ushs. 250. Grade A is for prisoners of exemplary conduct, who are also hardworking and highly skilled at their trade. They earn a daily wage of Ushs. 500. All workers are entitled to a monthly gratuity of Ushs. 1000. The earning scheme does not remunerate work done on weekends and public holidays, and anyone who appears for work three hours late is considered absent.[55]

Interviews with inmate teachers and instructors for the different programs revealed that although they are aware of the earning scheme, they are not being remunerated for their work. FDG respondents in Arua Men said they were only paid once for marking school examinations. The inmates in Luzira Women and a warder at Arua Men said that the WROs try to fill this gap by granting special privileges such as longer visitation hours and appreciation in kind like soap, sugar, and cooking oil from the store. However, this kind of motivation is limited and diminishing over time due to meagre prison resources. The deputy OC of Kitalya Prison Farm said that officers keep a record of the prisoners’ labour and they receive the money due to them on discharge from prison. She observed however that for now, they can only pay those who go out to farm, and the payment is not always guaranteed but dependent on release of funds from headquarters.

Relatedly, the OCs and headquarter staff observed that prison industries have not been functional in the past few years. This implies that even those prisoners who have completed their rehabilitation programs do not necessarily get the opportunity for employment, and are therefore not participating in the earning scheme.

5.6.5. The UPS Resource Basket

I would like to opine that whatever issues pertain as discussed in the preceding paragraphs, they are directly related to the resource basket of the UPS. Mandated with the responsibility of being able to rehabilitate all offenders who find themselves in the prisons of Uganda, the UPS is beset by the problem of under or poor resourcing. While this was not directly mentioned as a problem by any of the respondents, it was evident in the ‘scantiness’ of the rehabilitation programs both in terms of scope (type of programs available) and spread (how many prisons have rehabilitation programs). The UPS (2012) notes, in chapter five of the SIP III, that the service has critical budget shortfalls. For example, in the financial year 2012/13, although an annual budget of Ushs. 29.6 billion was needed to feed a daily average of 32,000 prisoners at Ushs. 2,500 per prisoner per day, their total non-wage recurrent budge for that period was Ushs. 25.6 billion. This means that there is hardly any money for other non-wage recurrent activities. The strategic plan also notes that it would require Ushs. 865 billion to implement SIP III and deliver its planned outputs. Out of this however, only Ushs. 429 is assured from government and development partners. The implementation of SIP III therefore has a shortfall of Ushs. 372 billion, which the prison top management have to mobilise (UPS, 2012). Although the specific shortfall for strategic objective three on rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners is not shown, it is obvious from the foregoing discussion that the general shortfall affects the rehabilitative function grossly. The UPS, in its report to the MoES seeking for support for prison education programs, noted that when they (UPS) have asked the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MFPED) to fund prison education, the response has been, “Get support for your educational programs from the education sector whose core mandate is to promote education …” (UPS, 2010, p. 9).

5.6.6. A Human Rights Approach to Prisoner Rehabilitation?

According to the SIP III (2012) , the Prisons Act 2006 entrenches the bill of rights into prison law. Indeed, the OC of Arua prison emphasised, “UPS has adopted a human rights based approach in treatment of offenders.”

The AWRO of Arua informed me that in order to achieve progressive realisation of core human rights of prisoners, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and EU Democratic Governance and Accountability Program (DGAP) support every prison in the country to select human rights monitors from among the inmates. These document all cases of human rights violations that take place, including who committed the violations and what remedies, if at all, were taken by prison authorities. This is a positive initiative, which has raised prisoner awareness of their rights and improved the general treatment of prisoners.

However, human rights based rehabilitation to prisoners is hazy. following on Ward’s (2011) implications for the human rights approach to offender rehabilitation[56], UPS still has a lot to do. In the first instance, while I did not perceive discrimination in accessing rehabilitation programs based on offenders’ ethnicity, religious beliefs, or gender, there was mention of exclusion based on language limitations. The WRO of Murchison Bay said, “Vocational and formal education programs are delivered in Swahili and English. Prisoners who cannot understand these languages are excluded.”

Also, as predicted by Ward (2011) there was evidence of discrimination based on the type and severity of prisoners’ offence and their assessed level of risk. The OC of Luzira Women said, “Condemned prisoners are not allowed to leave their section[57] and therefore cannot participate in rehabilitation programs. They are apathetic and may cause harm to others out of frustration. They can only begin to participate when their sentence has been shortened. They would be free to participate in religious activities and counselling but they have lost hope and are disinterested”.

This violates the human rights principles of equality of human dignity, and I agree with McCarthy (2010) that having committed a particularly vicious crime does not on its own warrant that an offender should be denied the opportunity to participate in reform processes, which would contribute to restoration of their diminished dignity.

Secondly, I perceived that there are tendencies of unjustified paternalism - the intentional restriction or overriding of a subordinate person’s preferences or freedoms by those in authority (Beauchamp & Childress, 2009). In the process of determining which rehabilitation programs prisoners attend, many times offenders’ preferences, and goals are over-ridden. Officers ask offenders to participate in given programs because ‘it is in the latter’s interest’. This was clear in my discussion with the AWRO of Kitalya Prison Farm about some prisoners being unwilling to participate in any of the available programs:

“They are mandated to participate in a religious program as a must. Everyone is affiliated to some religion. If not, they must participate in the activities of a cultural grouping. It is for their own good so that they are not redundant, and they learn something like tolerance or group dynamics.”

This in my opinion is paternalistic, takes away the individual’s autonomy, and threatens their dignity as rational self-determining individuals. Of course, I am cognisant of the fact that prisons officers have to grapple with massive redundancies particularly as there are too few programs in highly populated prisons. The challenge for them therefore is to balance the need to maintain order with observing the rights of prisoners in determining what rehabilitation programs to attend.

Thirdly, across the study, a key message that resonated from all respondents was that rehabilitation programs in the prisons of Uganda were desistance oriented. Desistance in this case refers to a point of self-recorded or self-reported offence (Kazemian, 2007). In the language of the UPS, the primary intention of rehabilitation is to reduce recidivism as per examples in text box 1 (next page).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Text Box 1

While this research did not seek to evaluate the UPS’ rehabilitation programs, I was curious to know whether there have been any successes in achieving desistance (or reducing recidivism). Respondents at UPS headquarters alluded to plans to conduct an evaluation to determine this. They maintained however that the vocational programs have been especially successful. The WRO Arua said that recidivism has indeed reduced in his region.

When I asked him how he is able to know this without an evaluation or follow up of ex-prisoners, he answered that Arua prison is a regional reception centre and maximum prison. So all prisoners from the region pass through here and his office is able to calculate the rate of recidivism from the records made in the process of receiving new prisoners. Other respondents, for example the Commissioner in Charge of Training and Research measured success in terms of the numbers of inmates that have completed formal education or graduated from tertiary and vocational programs.

Regarding enlisting community involvement in offender rehabilitation and reform processes, the UPS with support from JLOS has been implementing a project called ‘From Prison Back Home.’ It is an action research initiative aimed at social rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into local communities. Through this project, the UPS emphasises involvement of community leaders and civil society organisations in the prisoner reformation processes. A June 2011 report of the ‘From prison back home project’ does not enumerate the successes achieved for prisoners when communities have been involved in the rehabilitation process, but emphasises the need to sensitise communities to be more accepting of released prisoners.

6.0. Conclusion

In this chapter, I have detailed the findings of my fieldwork, showing that indeed the Uganda Prisons Service has attempted to rehabilitate prisoners. I have discussed the issues that the service has to address if they are to improve this service and provided an insight into the extent to which rehabilitation is human rights oriented. I have shown that the UPS implements rehabilitation programs from an activity-type of approach based originally on the Okware Directives that first established the welfare and rehabilitation section of the UPS in 1969. The programs are therefore not anchored in any academic or theoretical discourse, and are generally are haphazardly delivered, except in Luzira upper prison where most were first established and more organised. I have opined that issues affecting effective delivery of the rehabilitation are resultant from poor or under resourcing of the UPS. In the next chapter, I will give a general conclusion about the entire research process and suggest some policy recommendations for UPS’ consideration.

7.0. conclusions and recommendations

7.1. Summary of the Main Research

This thesis set out to establish whether the Uganda Prison Service (UPS) offers rehabilitation to prisoners during their incarceration. I was motivated to conduct this research during the time I offered pro bono counselling at Kigo men’s prison in Uganda. At that time, it occurred to me that the prisoners with whom I was working had numerous educational and psychosocial needs that did not receive the necessary attention and intervention. At the same time, my efforts to find information regarding the current state of reformation of prisoners in Uganda yielded very little, and it became apparent that the extent and quality of rehabilitation in Ugandan prisons merited research that is more dedicated.

The question that this thesis sought to answer was: ‘what is the nature of prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS?’ It considered the extent to which there is a clearly formulated conceptual understanding of rehabilitation in the UPS and to what extent programs of rehabilitation within Uganda’s prisons are underpinned by theory and policy. This study also researched the design, organisation, and delivery of rehabilitation programs within specific institutions and explored staff and prisoner perceptions of these programs. In chapter 2, I reviewed the policy framework that informs the operations of the UPS, particularly its historical background, and noted key legal, policy, and operational developments that have occurred during that history. I hoped that this would provide a clearer understanding of values and expectations that have informed the creation of Uganda’s prison system, as well as identifying issues that may impact on the delivery of rehabilitation to prisoners.

In chapter 3, this research study concerned itself with an analysis of the sociological and ideological functions of prisoner rehabilitation, and the different models and approaches to rehabilitation that prevail at the international level. In this regard, I was forced to draw substantially on literature from North America, as there has been very limited research on these themes in Africa. In addition, I considered the importance of a human rights framework for correctional practice emphasising the inherent dignity and rights of offenders, as well as the prisoners’ duty to respect and uphold the rights of others and the safety of the community. I specifically drew upon Ward’s (2011) model of human rights and its application in correctional practice. The human rights framework was important in this research because available literature on prisons in Africa, for example Dissel (2008), Munakukaama (2005), and Sarkin (2008) dwells much on violation of prisoner rights. It was therefore important to understand also how offender rehabilitation plays out within the prevailing human rights situation in the prisons of Uganda. The research found that the rationale advanced as the most important for providing rehabilitation programs to prisoners is to reform the offender and reduce his or her propensity to commit crime. In theory, this was in line with the conceptual connection between human rights and rehabilitation, which is promoting the wellbeing of the offender while at the same time reducing risk to society. As we saw in chapter 5, the reality was somewhat different especially because the rehabilitation programs provided by the UPS were found to exist within situations that violate human rights of prisoners – particularly overcrowding and its associated problems. Moreover, this research did not cover the scope of the effectiveness of prisoner rehabilitation post release, and therefore did not determine to what extent prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS reduced criminal risk to society.

The overall finding as enumerated in chapter 5 is that indeed the UPS (attempts to) provide rehabilitation to prisoners. The types of rehabilitation programs are similar to those discussed in chapter 3, where I drew examples from the American experiences, but with varying (lower) degrees of efficiency. Particularly, programs in the UPS were undermined by prison overcrowding, poor resourcing, and understaffing. They mostly include functional adult literacy for those without prior academic education, and formal education at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. They also include vocational and skills training, and limited psychosocial interventions. I found that psychosocial interventions were largely conducted on an informal basis by prison staff and social work volunteers and often took the form of group sensitisation programs.

7.2. Important Observations

7.2.1. Therapeutic Integrity of Rehabilitation Programs

A key observation of this study was that the rehabilitation programs that are being offered by the prisons I visited lacked therapeutic integrity. In other words, they are not well conceived and do not rely on sound academic / criminological theory; they have no standardised curriculum; and they used staff (instructors) who were mostly unqualified and not adequately trained. Regarding instructors particularly, programs were found to enlist the services of prisoners to train their colleagues. Only in few cases were these ‘inmate instructors’ qualified to carry out these functions (particularly teaching). In most instances however, the ‘inmate instructors’ were not qualified, had learnt on the job, or were simply interested in helping out.

There were also issues regarding inconsistencies between prisons where for example prisons in close proximity to headquarters (Luzira Upper prison specifically) had more programs that were also better developed while prisons further way hardly had any programs and were in fact struggling to engage their inmates in rehabilitative ways. Also, men’s prisons were found to have more programs than women’s prisons, some of the latter having none at all, which is contrary to the assertion that there would be no differences in service delivery to men and women inmates.

Due to overcrowding, few programs, and limited prison grounds, many prisoners spent significant amounts time doing nothing; and there were not programs appropriate for highly skilled prisoners. Additionally, the environment in which programs are delivered leaves one wondering whether programs are not called rehabilitative in name only. Issues of poor infrastructure and sharing of learning spaces between formal and vocational schooling abound.

Noteworthy also was the finding that programs were anchored more in legal directives rather than policy underpinnings. In other words, in an attempt to respond to international calls to uphold rights of prisoners, UPS issued the ‘Okware Directives’ as we saw in chapter 2, instructing the establishment of a Welfare and Rehabilitation section whose officers would implement a set of activities that were not based on any academic thought or policy prescription. This position has not been changed much except with the coming into force of the Prisons Act 2006, which also did not provide the conceptual definition of rehabilitation but prescribed that prisoners would be rehabilitated. I expound further the general issue of a lack of policy in section 6.2.3 below.

7.2.2. Uganda’s Criminal Justice System

While this study did not focus in detail on the type or functioning of Uganda’s wider criminal justice system, it was obvious that its level of efficiency bears significantly on the operations and challenges faced by the prison service in the country. As we saw earlier, prisoners on remand are legally not expected to participate in rehabilitation programs: indeed, arguably, it would be unethical to attempt to rehabilitate someone who has not been found guilty of any crime. Yet, because of the inefficiencies of criminal justice system that lead to chronic delays in completion of trials and execution of justice, many untried and non-convicted prisoners remain in prison for years. This is an important contributory factor to prison overcrowding Uganda. The prison authorities are then faced with the dilemma of how to keep such prisoners occupied throughout their many days of waiting. Ultimately, they enlist them into some of the existing programs, which not only stretch the resources available for rehabilitation, but also raise the question of whether programs are indeed for rehabilitation purposes and not just concerned with occupying time. This suggests that any efforts to reform the prison system in Uganda must be undertaken within the context of the wider reform of the criminal justice system.

7.2.3. Resourcing for Rehabilitation

In section 5.4 of this study I pointed out the absence of a specific policy document or framework to guide prisoner rehabilitation in the UPS. Section 5.6 discussed the issues that undermine efficiency of offender rehabilitation in practice, and in subsection 5.6.5 I aver that these issues are a direct result of the significant resourcing challenges facing the UPS. It is important to note that in Uganda, there is a tight relationship between the existence of a specific policy and the granting of funding for social services. Typically, funding is tagged to named policies (and their respective implementation guidelines), and if there is no clear policy statement then financial resources will not be made available. The implication therefore, is that by not having a clearly worked out correctional and rehabilitation policy, the UPS does not have a basis for budgeting and does not have adequate grounds on which to solicit or expect funding from the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to implement correctional programs, the bulk of which being prisoner rehabilitation. In the current policy framework of the UPS, rehabilitation is mentioned more in passing to the extent that staff and their offices are generally referred to as ‘welfare’. And to complicate matters, the welfare and rehabilitation section and its staff are not only in charge of prisoner issues but also staff issues. Thus they spend much time dealing with such things as staff housing, health, and staff’s children’s education.

Hence, it is paramount that the UPS fast tracks and more clearly articulates its plans for enhancing correctional service delivery (UPS, 2011) and that it develops a roadmap for it stated goal of transforming prisons from penal to correctional facilities (UPS, 2012, p. 32). Key among these is development of a correctional policy and that was supposed to have happened in the fiscal year 2012/13 which was the first year of implementation of USP’ Strategic Investment Plan (SIP III) – which sets out the policy, implementation, and financing intentions of the UPS for the fiscal years 2012/13 to 2016/17. While this has not yet happened, the correctional policy should provide for a framework to guide offender rehabilitation processes and practices: one that will incorporate a rehabilitation philosophy and theoretical model; be linked to appropriate infrastructure; will identify the relevant range and scope of programs; will be supported by professional staff; and will be able to draw down the necessary financial resources. As we saw in chapter five, these ingredients are largely not yet in place, which undermines the current effort to provide rehabilitation services to prisoners.

7.2.4. Paucity of Literature

An important realisation that not only prompted this study but also was persistent throughout the research process was the scarcity of information on prisons in Uganda generally, and on the rehabilitation of prisoners particularly. Much of the readily available information that I could find was focused on the area of human rights in prisons both at regional (Africa) and national (Uganda) level. There were particularly useful reports from the African Union Commission on Human and People’s Rights (2001, 2004a, 2004b), Human Rights Watch (2011), the Auditor General (2010), Nakandi (2009), and Uganda Human Rights Commission (2009, 2012, 2013). There were a few other authors such as Dissel (2008), Munakukaama (2005), Muntingh (2007), and Sarkin-Hughes (2008) writing on human rights in African prisons. Much of the descriptive information on Ugandan prisons that I used was in form of brief media reporting or other unpublished notes obtained from various staff during the data collection process.

In addition to the scantiness of literature, my interviews with staff suggest that there is a degree of lack of awareness among some UPS employees regarding the policies and practices of the UPS, and indeed regarding some basic features of prison life and history. Some of the key staff that I interviewed, especially at prison level replied to my questions with ‘I do not know’ or ‘ am not sure’ type of responses. There was also a general lack of engagement on important and seemingly obvious issues on the part of some key informants. For example, as mentioned in chapter 5, some key informants could not provide basic information about the prisons they were (are) in charge of, such as the historical background or the capacity of a given prison, and how things have evolved over time. In other instances, I had key informants at headquarters provide contrary information to key informants at prison level, particularly on the existence, functionality and effectiveness of prison reception boards, with the former saying they were not in place and therefore not functional, and the latter claiming the contrary.

There are several factors contributing to this dearth of information. At the most basic level, many staff insisted they were new in their positions (between 4 months to 4 years) and could not confidently comment on some of the issues I sought information about. At the same time, they had not found any records at their respective prisons that provided basic background information on those prisons, which points to various issues. First, there are obviously challenges with records management and preservation of institutional memory. Indeed the UPS hardly has any ICT infrastructure. At the headquarters, there have been attempts to provide computers to key officers, but there is insufficient internet connection for example, and database management is still lacking. Among the prisons I visited, only Murchison Bay and Luzira Women had about three computers each. The others did not have even one computer, meaning that most of their records are handwritten. On occasion, staff may use personal computers or hire secretarial services.

Second, the gap in literature reflects the country’s turbulent political history. There was very limited growth of public institutions and indeed Uganda witnessed the demise of other key institutions between 1970 and 1999. Moreover, from 2000 to date, there is a general hesitancy especially among public servants to divulge information, which has led to difficulty in accessing information from or conducting research in such institutions as police, prisons, and the military and other intelligence agencies. Because of the nature of their work, they are characterised by secrecy, are quite closed to the public, and there is much censoring of information so that they do not include certain information on publicly available records. Of course, Uganda has a law granting the public the right to access public information (GoU, 2005).[58] However, there is often a dissonance between what is provided in law and the practice, as unwritten policies tend to apply, mostly in situations of security related institutions like the prisons service. For this reason, it is not always easy for the public and researchers to obtain certain information from such institutions, and the quality of information accessed sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. This indicates the political nature of research that I discussed in section 4.7, which makes it constrained by wider forces, and therefore leads many areas remaining unresearched, and the consequent existence and sustenance of gaps in information.

7.3. Characteristics of the Prison Population

As we saw in chapter 2, the characteristics of the prison population reflect wider social issues that are affecting the national population. Low levels or the absence of education and youth redundancy and unemployment, for example, are reflected in the number of young people in incarceration, many of whom are lacking the basic education and skills to engage in meaningful livelihoods. This points to gaps in the broader provision and delivery of social policy at national level. For example, to what extent is Uganda’s education accessible to Ugandans of low socioeconomic status? How well does it respond to labour market needs and how does it contribute to livelihoods? These questions beg for more detailed analysis. Uganda for example has recently instituted various policy initiatives for youth livelihood development but already there are concerns regarding the persistence of structural exclusions (see Abola, 3 April 2012; Kasirye, Ahaibwe, & Barungi, June 2014). For example, in the Youth Venture Capital Fund, participating youth must be members of an ‘economically active group’ who have completed Ordinary Level Secondary School, have a bank account, and engaged in a business venture for at least 3 months, among other conditions (MFPED, n.d.). Thus social policy measures may reinforce and even exacerbate existing inequalities in provision and access. The consequences of this kind of policy failure are felt within the prison system, both in the very presence of so many young adults within the institutions, but also in the deep educational needs being exhibited by them.

7.4. Recommendations

7.4.1. Areas for Further Research

During the research process for this study, I became aware that the issues facing prisoners, their experiences of prison, the effectiveness of the Uganda Prison Service, and the general field of criminology is highly un-researched in Uganda. For the specific context of this study, there was, for example, no prior academic literature that attempts to understand such issues as motivations for offending or offender characteristics. Yet, evidently, such information or research would be useful and even essential if the UPS is to design appropriate offender rehabilitation programs. I therefore suggest that as the UPS aspires to ‘modernise’ from a penal to a correctional institution (see UPS, 2011; 2012, chapter 3), it will need to critically study the social determinants of crime and offending, and update itself on modern models of effective rehabilitation that would respond to needs of prisoners. UPS also needs to develop a theoretical foundation for its rehabilitation programs, as this will motivate improvements in the design and delivery or rehabilitation, as well as providing a well-founded basis for measuring success.

As alluded to in 6.3 above, it is also important to understand how education provision contributes to prevention of crime and offending in Uganda. Particularly, it would be good to study the relationship between the type and quality of education provided and the labour market needs of the country, and how this ultimately affects crime and offending. At the same time, such a study would be beneficial to the designing of appropriate prison education models of rehabilitation.

7.4.2. Sustainable Ressourcing

Very importantly, the government needs to look into increasing and sustaining adequate financial resources to the UPS for it to be able to fulfil its mandate. UPS on its part has to expedite the process of developing the correctional policy so that it can be approved within the period of its strategic investment plan. This will increase the chances for more funding to allow innovation and implementation of more relevant rehabilitation programs.


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Appendix I: Question Guide

A. Policy Development and Supervision: Headquarters Staff

1. What are the objectives of imprisonment in the Uganda Prison Service?

2. How does the UPS understand the concept of prisoner rehabilitation, and how does this understanding resonate with the overall objectives of the service?

- Meaning
- Rehabilitative ideal / rationale of the UPS
- Ultimate aim of rehabilitation

3. How has prisoner rehabilitation in Uganda evolved over time?

- What was being done in the past?
- What is being done now?
- What has changed?
- What prompted the changes?
- What plans for the future?

4. What models of rehabilitation are used in Uganda’s prisons (the type of rehabilitation programs?

5. To what extent do you think these models have achieved the rehabilitative objectives of the UPS? Explain.

6. What challenges have you faced in pursuing prisoner rehabilitation – at the policy development and supervision level?

7. How have you / do you intend to overcome these challenges?

8. How do you think prisoner rehabilitation can be improved in Uganda, and why?

B. Policy Implementation: Prison Management (Officers in Charge)

1. Give a brief background to and description of this prison:

- When was it started, and why?
- How has it changed overtime?
- What is the prisoner population per category – committed, remanded etc

2. What is your understanding of prisoner rehabilitation?

3. What is the basis / guideline for prisoner rehabilitation in this prison (policy, guidelines, directives, project design)?

4. At what level is prisoner rehabilitation in this prison determined:

- Do you determine and design your own programs or do you follow a centralised design that is determined at headquarters for all prisons?
- What is your level of autonomy in deciding what rehabilitation models to use in this prison?

5. Who decides (determines) which prisoner participates in which program? In other words, do prisoners exercise choice regarding what programs to participate in or whether to participate at all? Do they have this choice?

6. Which type of prisoners participate in rehabilitation and development programs? Do pre-trial / remanded prisoners participate? Why / why not?

7. In your opinion, to what extent are the said programs rehabilitative? Give examples / evidence.

8. What happens with long-sentence prisoners who have completed their preferred rehabilitation program(s) much earlier than the expiry of their sentence?

9. What do you think needs to be done differently, and how? In other words, what improvements need to be made to prisoner rehabilitation?

10. What is your role in effecting (realising) these improvements?

C. Program Implementation – Prison Staff and Instructors

1. Describe your roles & functions generally, and in respect to prisoner rehabilitation

2. Comment on your qualifications, skills and abilities to perform the above roles

3. What specific, specialised training and experience have you received to help you perform your roles better?

4. What specific rehabilitation programs are implemented in this prison – give type and general description of each of the rehabilitation programs:

- Goals / objectives / rehabilitative ideal of program
- What problem the program intends to respond to (correlation between program and criminal activity)
- Components of the program
- Is the program compulsory or optional
- How do you ensure prisoner interest and participation (if optional)
- How is program delivered – process, content, scheduling, organisation
- Who delivers the program
- Qualifications of those who deliver the program
- What have been the successes of the programs (numbers attending, qualitative benefit to those who attend? Benefit to society outside prison?)
- What have been the challenges and how have you overcome these?

5. Describe your typical day in implementing your program - process, content, scheduling, and organisation; do you follow any manuals, curriculum, and guidelines?

6. Do prisoners exercise choice or not regarding what programs to participate in or whether to participate at all?

7. What successes and challenges have you registered in implementing your program?

8. What do you think needs to be done differently to improve prisoner rehabilitation?

9. What is your role or contribution in improving the program (what can you do to improve the program)?

D. Program Experience – Prisoners, Ex-Prisoners

1. What kind of activities do you participate in?

2. Do you know why these programs exist (what is the purpose of these programs / activities)?

3. How are the programs delivered by the staff: process, content, scheduling, and organisation?

4. To what extent (how) do you think you benefit from these programs – mention a particular program and how it benefits you or not.

5. Who decides to participate in a given program – are all programs optional, compulsory?

6. On what basis do you choose to participate in any given rehabilitation program? In other words, if programs are optional, how are participants opted / recruited into the programs (who determines who participates and on what basis)?

7. As prisoners, do you exercise choice regarding what programs to participate in, or whether to participate at all? Do you have this choice?

8. Have you ever had an opportunity to suggest improvements to the rehabilitation programs?

9. If you had such an opportunity, what recommendations would you make to improve prisoner rehabilitation?

Appendix II: Letter Requesting for Research Permission

The Commissioner General

Uganda Prisons Service

Ministry of Internal Affairs

P.O.Box. 7191, Kampala

2nd June 2014

Dear Sir,

Request for Permission to Conduct Research in the UPS

My name is Rebecca Ssanyu. I am a student of Master of Social Science (Social Policy) at the University College cork, in Ireland. As part of completion of my degree, I am required to carry out research on an area of social policy; and I have great interest in social policy application in prisons.

I hereby request permission to conduct research in the Uganda Prison Service, titled “The Nature of Prisoner Rehabilitation in the Uganda Prison Service.” I would like to visit the headquarters and three levels of prisons – 1 national level, 1 regional level, and 1 sub county level to interview staff and prisoners on matters regarding prisoner rehabilitation. I believe that the recommendations from my research will contribute to the rehabilitative agenda of the UPS, and I pledge to share a copy of my final report with your office.

Please find herewith attached a draft copy of my proposal and question guide for the proposed research, as you requested. I will be most grateful if my request meets your kind consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Rebecca Ssanyu.


[1] Ankole and Buganda are some of the kingdoms that later formed the present-day Uganda at independence.

[2] Uganda is in East Africa.

[3] My efforts to locate all these legal documents, recorded in Kamugisha’s account, were futile. As noted in the discussion, prisons work was initially embedded within the police service. I was able to find a blog post by Oryema (13 October 2006) on the history of police service indicating that police was itself embedded in the military service, and notes that “the details of police work carried out by the armed constabulary are unknown as no records were kept. The Inspector General of Police in 1906, Captain Edwards, remarked that ‘to put it broadly police duty was a o man’s child.’” See accessed 24 September 2014.

[4] Following Uganda’s independence in October 1962, the country was relatively stable but highly politically charged until 1970, governed first based on the 1962 Independence Act, and later the 1967 Constitution. From 1971, there was rapid political and economic deterioration. General Amin overthrew Dr. Obote’s government in 1971, suspended the 1967 Constitution, and ruled by decree. Between then and 1986, the country had two coups and a five year guerrilla warfare from 1982 to 1985, which brought President Yoweri Museveni into power in 1986. Museveni’s government led the process of promulgating a new Constitution in 1994, and passed it in 1995.

[5] Herein after referred to as the 1995 Constitution.

[6] Herein after referred to as the Prisons Act.

[7] Emphasis mine.

[8] See also

[9] These institutions include Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and The Judiciary. They also include the Uganda Police Force, Uganda Prisons Service, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, and Judicial Service Commission. JLOS also includes the Ministry of Local Government (Local Council Courts), Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (Probation and Juvenile Justice), Uganda Law Reform Commission, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission. It also includes the Law Development Centre (LDC), Tax Appeals Tribunal, Uganda Law Society, Centre for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, and the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).

[10] See UPS Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) III p.13.

[11] See Accessed 30 August 2014

[12] I refer to ‘Africans’ and not ‘Ugandans’ here (as does Kamugisha also) because during the colonial era, there were no people legally called Ugandans. The first legislation to confer Ugandan nationality to natives of the British protectorate of Buganda was the Uganda Independence Act 1962 (see Alenyo, October 2014; British Government, 1962).

[13] The last population census in Uganda was done in 2002 and all projections for subsequent years are premised on the 2002 figures. A new census is ongoing at the time of writing this report, having started in mid August 2014.

[14] Emphasis mine.

[15] This study by Stephan is over a decade old and not an evaluation of current US provision. The status of such programs has been subject to changing social and penal policy priorities.

[16] Social cognition refers to understanding other people and social interactions.

[17] Executive cognitive functioning is the cognitive functioning required in planning, initiation, and regulation of goal-directed behaviour.

[18] There is a group of prisoners referred to as committals by the UPS. These have been committed to the high court and have to wait for the Judge to preside over their cases (see for example Kaweesa, 2012; Wolimbwa-Gadenya, n.d.).

[19] Emphasis mine

[20] Emphasis mine.

[21] See discussion on policy framework where I provided a brief insight into how the prisons system in Uganda is organised. See also

[22] As I discuss later in chapter 5, it is the practice within prisons that skilled or semi skilled prisoners participate in delivering some of the rehabilitation programs as teachers or instructors.

[23] I have appended to this report two letters requesting for permission for me to conduct research in the prisons of Uganda: one from the University and another from myself. I also append the letter granting me permission to conduct this research.

[24] See contents of letter granting permission to research in prisons – appended to this report.

[25] Same as above.

[26] The question guides are included in the appendices.

[27] As described in table 1

[28] See letter of permission to conduct research herewith appended.

[29] More specific information withheld for ethical reasons.

[30] See discussion on the policy underpinnings to prisoner rehabilitation in the next chapter.

[31] Until two years ago, female prisoners in Arua were housed in a ward inside the men’s prison.

[32] In the case of UPS, petty offenders refer to people who have committed crimes that are tried by magistrates and grade one court. They mostly comprise such simple crimes as theft, domestic disputes, failure to pay ‘small’ debts, trespass on neighbours’ gardens, etc.

[33] This includes prison staff and their families.

[34] Being a regular government health centre, this hospital, although it is inside the prison community, is obligated to receive and treat any member of the public free of cost.

[35] Luzira Upper prison is a maximum-security prison for men. It receives prisoners who have been convicted of capital offences and sentenced to life, death, or very long sentences. It serves the entire country, meaning that all prisoners with sentences of greater or equal to twenty years from other prisons are sent to Luzira Upper.

[36] Luzira Remand prison is for men on remand and debtors on short sentences who can be released immediately their debts have been cleared. Legally, people should not be on remand for more than 48 hours, although the reality is different.

[37] Condemned prisoners are those on life sentence or death row.

[38] Unlike the female prisoners, male prisoners have at least one maximum-security prison in every region.

[39] ‘From Prison Back Home’ project is a social rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders’ project implemented in prisons with funding from the Justice Law and Order Sector. It is a restorative justice approach that puts emphasis on mediation and healing between offenders, victims, and local communities (Omita-Okoth, Atwagala, & Hasiyo, 2011, p. 12).

[40] Emphasis mine.

[41] Herein after referred to as the Okware Directives (as they are commonly known in Uganda).

[42] This is a paper written to present proposals for reorganising the Welfare and Rehabilitation Division of the UPS into a fully functional rehabilitation directorate. At the time of this research, this draft paper was not available to the public. It was printed by the Senior Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer at UPS headquarters specifically to assist me in this research.

[43] Mentioned in footnote 38.

[44] In the Ugandan context, community sensitisation refers to communication and learning processes where large numbers of people come together to listen to a trainer or facilitator, similar to a village meeting or rally. This approach relates to the nature of prisons where many inmates share dormitories as opposed to single or double occupancy rooms common in Europe and America.

[45] Many people in Uganda teach in primary and secondary schools even when they are not necessarily trained as teachers.

[46] In Uganda, the Primary seven is the candidate class in primary school that sits the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). When there is a backlog in completing the primary school syllabus, teachers use past paper examinations to prepare the pre-candidate (P.6) and the candidate (P.7) classes so that they increase their chances of passing the national PLE.

[47] The African Prison Project is a charity organisation that works to restore dignity and hope to prisoners in Uganda and other countries in Africa. Information about them can be obtained from

[48] The Luzira group of prisons comprises Luzira Upper, Murchison Bay (with the attached Murchison Bay hospital), Luzira Women, and Luzira Remand. They are referred to as the Luzira group of prisons because although they are autonomous, they are all situated in the vicinity of each other on Luzira hill in Kampala district. They comprise the largest prison establishment in the country. While the different prisons here are autonomous with different administrations, they collaborate in a lot of activities.

[49] I was supposed to have visited Kigo Men and Kigo Women prisons for this study but could not do so due to time constraints. However, in discussing vocational programs, the SWRO mentioned these prisons as some of those with a variety of rehabilitation programs, which are also in fairly in good form.

[50] As I discuss later, ideally only convicted prisoners (in this case 73 inmates) are legally allowed to participate in rehabilitation programs. Remands are not. But because many prisoners stay on remand for years, prison administrations have no option but to include them in rehabilitation processes.

[51] According to the UPS Strategic Investment Plan III (2012/13-2016/17), out of 16,828 remands as at 30th June 2011, only 4,827 had been on remand for thirty days or less. Of those who had been on remand for more than a month, 3,011 prisoners had been on remand for at least one year, and 61 for over five years (see chapter 2, UPS, 2012).

[52] In Uganda, cultural groups refer to tribal and traditional groups that subscribe to different kingdoms or chiefdoms in the country. They engage in rituals, folklore and related activities.

[53] The psychiatric nurse also takes care of non-psychiatric medical needs

[54] In Uganda, primary school runs from Primary One (P.1) to Primary Seven (P.7). Primary Six (P.6) is the pre candidate class. P.7 sits the national Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) that propels them to secondary school. In the event that pupils are behind schedule in completing the syllabus, teachers concentrate their efforts on ensuring that P.6 and P.7 pupils learn as much as they can in the limited time left in order to increase their chances of passing PLE.

[55] 1 Uganda Shilling equals 0.00029 Euro (1 Euro = 3445.72 Uganda Shillings).

[56] Refer to my discussion on human rights in section 3.3. of this report.

[57] Condemned prisoners are those on death row or life sentence. When they exist in the same prison as other short-term prisoners, there is a ‘condemned section’ where they are locked up and not allowed to mix with other prisoners.

[58] The Access to Information Act 2005.

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Prisoner Rehabilitation in the Uganda Prison Service
University College Cork  (School of Applied Social Studies)
Master of Social Sciences (Social Policy)
40.0 credits
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Author obtained a First Class Honours Degree. This is also the first ever academic paper on the subject of correctional rehabilitation in Uganda.
nature, prisoner, rehabilitation, uganda, prison, service
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Rebecca Ssanyu (Author), 2014, Prisoner Rehabilitation in the Uganda Prison Service, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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