Brazil’s Drug War Is Filling Up Jails Like in the US

    Brazilian prison - Antonio Cruz/ABr

    Brazilian prison - Antonio Cruz/ABr Nearly half of all people imprisoned in Brazil’s third most populous state, Rio de Janeiro, are being detained without a conviction, helping to produce an explosion in the country’s prison population that is similar to the crisis in the United States, according to a newly-released report.

    The investigation, entitled, “When Freedom is the Exception” was written by two nongovernmental organizations, Global Justice, and Rio’s State Mechanism for Preventing and Combating Torture, and its findings are based on 20 unscheduled visits to several detention centers in Rio, as well as the observation of 313 detention hearings from mid-2015 to June 2016.

    The report concluded that 44 percent, or approximately 22,000 people, were held in jails or prisons without a conviction over that period.

    “Beyond determining the number of people in provisional detention, we had the goal of determining the conditions of compliance with provisional arrest in Rio, and what was confirmed is that, in fact, convicted prisoners are (held) together (with) those in provisional detention, which violates the law of criminal enforcement,” Guilherme Pontes, a researcher with Global Justice, told reporters.

    Brazilian prison - Antonio Cruz/ABr

    “In addition, we also followed the custody hearings and were able to determine that ill-treatment and torture are still flagrantly very present in prisons. We had an emblematic case in which a judge asked, after the accused said that he had been tortured, if he was sure or was just subject to an ‘energetic detention.'”

    The report details the legal framework meant to ensure the rights of those accused of crimes is respected but found that the reality of the situation falls far short of what the law outlines.

    With more blacks than any other country in the Americas, race plays a role in Brazil’s incarceration crisis. According to government figures, in Brazil, 55 percent of those in detention are younger than 29 and 61.67 percent are black.

    The latter figure could in fact be higher but the data is provided by the corrections system and not by detainees themselves who may self-identify as black.

    The 80-page report also outlines the policy and legislative revisions, mostly strengthening Brazil’s drug-trafficking laws, that have produced an explosion in Brazil’s prison population since 1988.

    The late 1980s coincides with the launch of the United States own war on drugs, which also resulted in an explosion of the prison population, and has been widely criticized as costly, counterproductive, and racially-biased.

    “As it turns out, the provisional arrest is, in theory, one exceptional measure in accordance with the rules of Brazilian democratic rule of law. However, what occurs in reality in the selective Brazilian penal system is the mass provisional imprisonment of poor Black youth. For them, provisional detention is the rule and freedom is the exception,” read the report.

    A 2014 report by the Ministry of Justice indicated that 28 percent of those convicted were in jail for drug-related offenses, the largest group, followed by theft at 25 percent. A 2010 study by Luciana Boiteux cited in the report found that people imprisoned for drug-related offenses have been steadily increasing over the years.

    An analysis of the growth of the prison population from 1990 to 2014 led researchers to conclude that there was “no doubt that the legal framework concerning drugs has been accompanied by an increase in the prison population.”

    “It must be noted that in most cases, after months or even years in preventative detention, the defendants are not even sentenced to serve time in prison,” says the report.

    Researchers also found that policies implemented during so-called mega events hosted by Brazil in recent years, such as the World Cup, also contributed to the decline of respect for human rights and an increase in incarceration.

    “The reason for that is it is believed that to have a safe city (requires) a policy of more incarceration,” Renata Lira said.

    The report concludes that as a result of the investigation that an “immediate and radical change in crime and prison policy” is necessary and makes a series of recommendations for both the state and federal governments.

    Among their recommendations, the report calls for reforms in drug laws and policies, a reduction in the maximum amount of time someone can be preventative detention, and for suspects to put before a judge within 24 hours after their detention.

    Brasil de Fato

    Tags:

    • Show Comments (0)

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    comment *

    • name *

    • email *

    • website *

    Ads

    You May Also Like

    Kaiowá leader Ladio Veron - Photo: Survival International

    Let Down by Brazil, Indian Leader Goes to Europe to Save His People and the Forest

    Ladio Veron, leader of Brazil’s indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá people, is touring Europe and making a ...

    A prison in Brazil - Wilson Dias/ABr

    Gang Country: In This Brazilian Prison Guards Do Not Enter

    Brazil’s representatives had to explain at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human ...

    Lack of sanitation in Brazil's favelas is common -

    Basic Sanitation Might Be Coming Soon to a Big Favela in Rio

    Brazilian authorities have taken the first step towards providing basic sanitation to more than ...

    O Kunumi Chegou - From Youtube

    Brazilian Young Indians Become Rappers to Fight for Land Rights

    The opening ceremony of Brazil’s World Cup in 2014 also marked the kickoff of ...

    Brazilian human rights activist and leftist councilwoman Marielle Franco assassinated in Rio. - Photo: #MidiaNINJA

    Execution in Rio of Black Activist and Councilwoman Shocks and Moves Brazil

    Prominent Brazilian human rights activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de ...

    Guarani mother - Carla Antonini

    Brazil Indians Dying from Extreme Poverty and for Lack of Food, Water

    Brazil’s National Food Security and Nutrition (CONSEA) submitted recommendations to several federal and state ...

    March pro black right. The police bullets only kill blacks - Oswaldo Corneti/Fotos Públicas

    The Brazilian Experience: How Black Rage Turns into Revolt

    Brazilian black movements have been organizing and protesting against racial violence and injustice for ...

    US president-elect Donald Trump

    A Look from Brazil: How Did Trump Happen?

    On Wednesday morning, November 9, The New York Times headline in double-sized print read ...