Elderly prisoners in Uganda, who are sick and need help, are asking the government for assistance. One of these inmates is 78-year-old Sam Gwayambade, who is serving a 20-year jail sentence for murder.
They are finding it hard to get the medicine they need because it is expensive. Many of their family members have abandoned them since they are in prison, leaving all the responsibility to the prison authorities.
These elderly inmates have various health problems like hernias, ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Frank Baine, a spokesperson for Uganda Prisons, said that although the government gave them a budget of sh480 billion for the year 2023/2024, they don’t have a specific fund to take care of elderly prisoners.
They have to use the general budget to help prisoners with chronic illnesses.
Incarceration is Expensive
This year, they allocated sh150 billion for farming and sh11 billion for food. However, according to Baine, they need sh70 billion just to take care of the basic needs of the 76,248 prisoners in the country.
Every day, they spend sh22,000 on each prisoner for accommodation, medicine, security, uniforms, bedding, and sanitation. That adds up to over sh8 million per year for each prisoner.
Mathematically, they need over sh612 billion every year to take care of all the prisoners, which is more than the sh480 billion they got in this year’s budget.
This money is not enough to feed and give healthcare to the prisoners, especially as they get older.
Baine couldn’t say how many elderly prisoners there are, but he did mention that Luzira Upper Prison has more than 300 inmates who are over 65 years old.
Challenges for Elderly Inmates
Baine explained that even though they get a budget like other prisoners, it’s more expensive to care for the elderly because they get sick more often and have specific dietary needs.
A prisoner is supposed to get sh4,000 every day. So, on average, it costs sh1.5 million to take care of a prisoner for a year. But because elderly inmates need more medical care, it costs around sh2.9 million per year for each elderly prisoner.
Baine said they have to follow the law and take care of elderly prisoners until they are released or pass away. But some of them face bullying and mistreatment from younger inmates. They are often harassed, which makes their time in prison even harder.
To help elderly inmates, authorities have special programs for them. They don’t have to do difficult work, and they can become prefects, which is an advantage.
No matter the crime they committed, inmates are entitled to medical care. However, some of the prescriptions for the elderly are expensive.
Senior inmates don’t have to work on prison farms, and they receive special treatment like fruits and eggs from the prison farms.
A report from 2012 on prisons in Africa showed that as the number of prisoners has increased, the investment in prison systems hasn’t kept up. This has led to overcrowding, which has affected prisoners’ living conditions and their rights.