High Court Judge Margaret Mutonyi has emphasized the importance of counseling, testing, and treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria among inmates.
Speaking as the Focal person on Juvenile Justice, Justice Mutonyi stressed that all inmates, not just those charged with sexual offenses, should be checked for these diseases.
“It is very important that they are checked and to me, it should not be only those who are charged with sexual offenses but all the inmates must be checked,” she said.
She was speaking at a high-level meeting for the top managers of criminal justice system institutions under the theme; “A right-based approach to remove barriers to Presentation, Access, Uptake and Retention to HIV, TB and Malarial services within the Criminal justice system” held in Kampala Wednesday.
She emphasized that testing should begin at the police level and should continue regularly, as it is a fundamental right of the inmates to receive proper healthcare and treatment.
Justice Mutonyi also highlighted the challenge of poor medical examination in the police force, which has led to the falsification of results and prolonged detention for suspects.
She raised concerns about young offenders being placed in adult prisons, where they become victims of abuse and sodomy due to inflated age records. Justice Mutonyi called for improved cooperation and coordination between the prison system and the judiciary to fast-track cases involving sick individuals.
During the meeting, Justice Vicente Wagona emphasized the need for collective efforts from stakeholders in the justice and criminal system to create a crime-free society.
John Bosco Tumwebaze, the Assistant Commissioner General of Prisons, stated that samples are taken from inmates to detect cases of TB or HIV before assigning them to appropriate facilities.
Justice Wagona also stressed the importance of strengthening investigations in cases of aggravated defilement, particularly in suspects with HIV, rather than solely focusing on the aggravated factors of the cases.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Lady Justice Jane Frances Abodo, highlighted some of the achievements made since the inception of the project, including sensitization of prisoners, health-related camps in courts, training of police officers, and the development of policies and guidelines, with support from the Global Fund.
While there may be resistance to mandatory testing, many officials at the function emphasized that it helps to identify those who are still healthy and provide them with preventive measures, while also ensuring that those who are sick receive appropriate medical care.