Sarah spent more time in prison before her trial, than if she was sentenced


Sarah spent more time in prison before her trial, than if she was sentenced

Sarah Kabagenyi

Across the world, 10 million people are held in prisons. 3 million of whom have yet to access a fair trial.

Through our work to ensure everyone has access to justice, that those committing crimes are properly convicted, and that those who are found guilty receive a fair sentence, we met 27-year-old Sarah Kabaganyi.

Single mother of three Sarah, was accused of assault and taken to Luzira Women’s Prison in 2019.

According to the law in Uganda, the offence she was charged with attracted a penalty of one-year imprisonment. However, like many others detained for long periods without being convicted, Sarah spent more than a year on remand, waiting for her day in court and the sentence term to be prescribed by the law.

“My continued stay in prison was extremely detrimental to the life of my three children, since I was their bread winner. I used to work in a restaurant,” Sarah explains.

“Being in prison: days are like months and months are like years. You wouldn’t think of coming out one day.”

“My first fear was leaving my children behind with no one to look up to, and being uncertain when I would get justice and walk home."

After some time, Sarah learned about the regular legal awareness sessions conducted in the prison by Justice Defenders auxiliary paralegals.

By attending the sessions, she learned about inmates’ right to bail, right to appeal, and plea bargaining.

She approached a paralegal officer at prison who then informed an advocate Jennifer who works with Justice Defenders, to proceed with a bail application.

Jennifer prepared a bail application for Sarah which was heard at Nakawa Court on 12 February 2021. Sarah was released on a non-cash bail of one million Ugandan Shillings (roughly £200 or $270), pending hearing of the criminal case. After serving one year and four months on remand, Sarah was free.

With huge excitement, she was able to reunite with her three children. “I didn’t think I would have this opportunity to get bail, given the fact that I couldn’t manage the costs, but Justice Defenders did it for me.” She explains.

Justice Defenders carries out numerous activities in many prisons across Kampala and Mid-central area. We train inmates to become auxiliary paralegals so that they can provide basic legal support and advice to prisoners. Helping them prepare to present their cases effectively in court, often for bail and mitigation hearings.

Our paralegals also often trace sureties on behalf of those seeking to apply for bail, resolve cases through alternative dispute resolution, and acting as a link between the inmates who have overstayed on pre-trial detention and justice officials. Find out more about our practice work.