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Sudreau Global Justice Institute and Uganda Judiciary Host Plea Bargaining Session at Luzira Prison

On October 6th and 7th, the Sudreau Global Justice Institute (SGJI) and the Judiciary of Uganda hosted a plea bargaining session at Luzira Prison in Kampala, Uganda. In the prison, 442 remandees signed up to receive legal consultation, and SGJI's team of lawyers spoke with 255 clients during the two-day session. After consultation, 244 remandees were able to reach a fair and just plea agreement. Almost 96% of the cases SGJI handled were resolved in less than two days. Remarkably, of the 244 cases resolved, 115 remandees walked out of prison as soon as SGJI finished their cases (over 47%) because they had already overstayed their sentences.

Strengthen Justice Systems

These are significant results. Not only are the 244 cases now off the dockets of the applicable courts, each of the 115 remandees who were immediately released saves the courts and prisons costs of security, medical care, transport, food, lodging, and incidental costs. The savings began as soon as the final paperwork was signed. Most importantly, 115 people – fathers, mothers, and children – are now reunited with their families and back to work as productive members of society.

According to Uganda’s National Prison Administration, the number of prisoners in Uganda on pretrial detention comprise 50.9% of the prison population (about 35,690 people). Occupancy level in Ugandan prisons, based on official capacity, was 350.8% in June 2022. That means, on average, Ugandan prison facilities are holding four times the amount of people for which they were designed. Ensuring humane conditions are upheld inside prisons is a key priority of SGJI's partners within the Ugandan government, and the plea bargaining initiative is playing a significant role in making that a reality. 

Defend the Defenseless

One of SGJI's clients, Ann, was a juvenile in an adult prison. Ann is 17. 

Charged as an adult, Ann was on pre-trial detention for one month in Luzira Women's Prison (adult prison).  She was hired as house help for a family who didn’t pay her for three months. In response, she got angry and broke a window.  The family filed charges.  When SGJI received Ann’s case, her charge sheet said she was to receive a 20 year sentence. SGJI's attorney, Esther, met Ann on last Friday during the Prison Project.  Through plea bargaining, the prosecution and Esther agreed on a “caution” (warning). Ann was immediately released.

Train the Next Generation

Sustainability is a key focus in all of SGJI's work. For that reason, a key component of all SGJI projects is to build local capacity through the development of tomorrow’s leaders.

In Uganda, SGJI has achieved this through a commitment to criminal justice stakeholder training, and through strategic partnerships with local law schools, like the widely acclaimed Uganda Christian University Law School (“UCU”). For several years now, SGJI has partnered with UCU students to conduct its handful of plea bargaining exercises throughout the year. 

In this most recent plea bargaining session, 10 Uganda Christian University law students worked with SGJI lawyers to represent all 255 clients. In addition, SGJI worked with representatives from 15 different courts, and 14 different magistrate judges. For law students and judges alike, this hands-on experience and demonstration of justice will undoubtedly shape their future practice of law in Uganda.