8 July 2012

Uganda: Ex-Convict Rejected By Family Finds New Home in NGO

It is not every day that instead of basking in new-found freedom, a prisoner chooses to go back to prison. But that is what ex-convict Saddam Mugamba has been handed over to the executive director of Mission after Custody, Morris Kizito.

Mission after Custody is an NGO responsible for taking care of homeless ex-convicts.

Mugamba was discharged from prison after Court lost interest in his case.

"When I went back home, I was rejected by my brother and the community, claiming that l was likely to rob them," he recounts.

"Much as the organisation is responsible for taking care of the ex-offenders, it lacks requisite funding yet they require extra assistance since many of them are unemployed," Kizito says. Currently Mission after Custody accommodates over 500 ex-offenders.

He expresses worry that in circumstances of death, there is nowhere to bury them and calls on the Government to allocate land for construction of a resettlement centre.

Kizito adds that income generating activities should be considered in the project to ensure that ex-offenders gain skills that will help them acquire employment.

Mugamba has been sleeping on the streets, but that life was too hard. In desperation, he went back to Luzira Maximum Prison, even suggesting that one of the other prisoners be set free so that he could take his place.

"In prison, I never missed a meal neither did I fail to have a shower. But upon discharge I hardly access water to bathe or get food to eat. Out there, I have been forced to pick leftovers from the dustbin," Mugamba narrates.

Mugamba had been remanded to Luzira on charges of theft. He, however, insists that he took advantage of a colleague who was resting to ride his bike.

Unfortunately, he claims, he knocked a pedestrian, leading to his arrest and subsequent prosecution.

Godfrey Komakech, the officer in charge of barracks and security at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, said Mugamba's peculiar request stunned authorities.

According to the custodial rules and regulations, prison authorities are mandated to discharge a detainee upon completion of the sentence. Further detention after the sentence amounts to misimprisonment, implying that an ex-prisoner has a right to sue prison authorities in such a case.

Mugamba, in fact, committed an offence by going back to the detention facility, Frank Baine, the prison's publicist said.

Baine stressed: "The prison department is mandated to take custody of prisoners who are in possession of commitment warrants from court and restricted from accommodating ex-prisoners unless they happen to commit another crime."

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