13 years in prison, 13 brand new books

11th May 2021 | Blog

Over the past two decades, the Luzira Upper Maximum Prison in Uganda has gone from being a notoriously violent place to one of the most progressive prisons in Africa. It has its own successful football team and a school staffed by prisoners which offers inmates book clubs, basic literacy courses, the opportunity to complete high school, vocational training and even university degrees in law.

This education programme is possible thanks to the support of charity Justice Defenders. Access to quality reading materials is key in helping inmates prepare for court, study for their exams and thrive on their release – and prisoners, like everyone have a right to access information. That is why, with the support of donors like you, Justice Defenders has created a library in the prison.

That library has been a lifeline for inmates like Duke Mkeya. Duke is currently serving 13 years, and he told us what the books and library mean to him: 

“I have read 13 books of different disciplines in a short time. Including law books, books on communications, technology and business management. Reading law books has enabled me to become competent and confident in my dealings with legal matters.

I can now draft legal documents, bail applications and reviews to be submitted to the higher court. This has worked for me and my fellow inmates.”

An inmate takes a look at the new books on the shelves of the prison’s library. 

I have also learned about factors which lead people to commit crimes and how to avert them.

Peter Kwanusu is also an inmate at Luzira, and like Duke, Peter finds reading books educational, which he says has influenced the way he envisages his life outside of prison.

“These books have improved my reading ability. I have gained entrepreneurship skills and knowledge. This has opened my eyes and changed my mind.

If given another chance to rejoin society, I would surely use them to improve my life and that of my family.

“Inmates learn to be creative and innovative in the way we think and act. This is because books expose us to different kinds of resourceful information. Reading in prison helps inmates fight stress by giving us a chance to reflect.” 

Brian, another inmate that has benefited from the new library books, says they are used regularly by all inmates across the prison, no matter their previous level of education or their socio-economic status.

“Through these services, books have had an immense impact on inmates’ professional development. Even those who were admitted at the prison with limited educational background can now read and feel the impact of this service.”

Thanks to our supporters, every year we supply Justice Defenders with thousands of books in a wide range of subjects. From children’s and primary books to adult fiction, English language skills, higher education, and law, these books allow prisoners to further their education, develop their skills, read for pleasure and develop a lifelong love of reading. Read more about Justice Defenders’ work here.