CILC and Penal Reform International (PRI) are carrying out a tailor-made training for the Directorate of Community Service in Uganda, funded through an EP-Nuffic grant. The training is designed to address the question How can we increase the use of community service as an alternative to imprisonment and what is required to make that happen in Uganda?
Community service is not applied optimally as a sanction in Uganda. The Directorate of Community Service is facing various challenges to its operations. Among them is the limited commitment and engagement of stakeholders in promoting community service as non-custodial measure. Many stakeholders believe that community service is something for developed countries, which have the necessary funding to adequately supervise offenders. In Uganda, such supervision remains a significant challenge, due to both budget shortages and the absence of sufficient staff specialised in correctional approaches, which is key in offender rehabilitation and reintegration. Other challenges are connected to the limited number of placement centres and their unequal distribution in the regions.
Training in restorative justice
A one-week training was delivered to twenty selected staff of the Directorate of Community Service in Jinja (Eastern Region of Uganda) in the period 10-15 July. Not only did the training offer comparative approaches and international minimum standards on community services, it also provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on their current situation and to propose solutions tailored to the Ugandan context. The program included a field visit to the High Court and prison facilities in Jinja. A meeting with the Resident Magistrate at the High Court highlighted some gaps that deserve immediate attention. Improved communication and regular updates with the judiciary and other stakeholders were listed as priority steps to fill these gaps, as they could serve to encourage the issuing of community service orders by the judiciary.
Prison overcrowding poses a serious challenge for the delivery of criminal justice in Uganda. From the meeting we had with the officer in charge of the Jinja prison facility, it became apparent that the correctional facility hosted 1098 detainees at the time of the visit, whereas it was built to hold no more than 300 inmates. Eighty-five percent (85%) of these prisoners are remanded awaiting trial for capital offenses. Only 107 are facing petty crime charges and could be eligible for community service. This beckoned the question How can we increase the use of community services in Uganda and particularly Jinja, given current prison conditions? The participants were asked to map the challenges that Jinja prison facilities face, as well as an action plan for improvement.
Study visit to Kenya
In the period 5-7 September 2016, a study visit to Kenya took place as part of the same project. The objective of the visit was to enhance the knowledge of the ten participating staff members of the Community Service Directorate about Eastern African trends and best practices in correctional services, as well as to strengthen Eastern African cooperation in this area. The visit included visits to the headquarters of the Kenyan probation service, two local probation offices and a local court, as well as meetings with clients of community service experiences. The visit led to the conclusion that the Ugandan Directorate of Community Service should improve its work through the development of Standard Operation Procedures and Total Quality Management, the implementation of an induction course for staff on trends in correctional services and by improving the record management system.
These topics will be addressed in the last training of this project, which will take place in the period 10-14 October 2016 in Uganda.