Prison authorities from the south-western region have asked the Principal Judge, Justice Flavian Zeija, to arrange for them more Plea Bargain Sessions for minor cases.
The minor cases that were highlighted include theft, assault, threatening violence, and trespass, among others, which they say have contributed hugely to the congestion in prisons.
The authority officers made the request during the launch of a plea bargain session on Monday at Mbarara Main Prison, which was led by Justice Flavian Zeija, the Principal Judge of the High Court.
Innocent Draville, the Officer in Charge of Mbarara Main Prison, says since 2014 when the plea bargaining initiative started in Mbarara, a total of 1,276 capital cases have been handled and disposed of compared to the 281 petty offences, noting that more efforts are needed to advocate for petty offenders to enrol for plea bargaining.
He says the Plea Bargaining initiative has encouraged more capital offenders to benefit than minor cases.
He is optimistic that by the end of the camp, with the efforts put in for petty offenders to enroll, the numbers will increase. The Mbarara Main Prison currently has 2,408 inmates, which is more than six times the maximum number it is supposed to hold, 384 prisoners.
The Regional Prisons Commander for the South Western Region, Selestine Twesigye, says the plea bargain initiative has helped the streamlining of the rehabilitation programme that is targeting convicts only.
He says that minor offenders, once convicted, can be shifted to other prisons to learn trades and reduce congestion in many prisons.
Justice Zeija says they have started encouraging petty offenders to enrol for Plea Bargaining sessions to save themselves the time they spend on remand, noting that it was witnessed in the last sessions carried out.
The Plea Bargain Session, which began today, will handle over 100 cases of capital and 100 petty offences enrolled from Kakiika and Bushenyi Prisons, according to Resident Judge for Mbarara High Court Circuit Justice Joyce Kavuma.
Plea bargaining was primarily instituted to de-congest the backlog of both capital and petty offence cases. However, this initiative has been dominated by capital offenders.