HomeNewsBriefBrazil Jail Break Following Riots Spotlights Prison System in Crisis
BRIEF

Brazil Jail Break Following Riots Spotlights Prison System in Crisis

BRAZIL / 27 MAY 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

A recent prison guard strike in northeastern Brazil sparked rioting by inmates, which in turn led to a mass jail break -- a chaotic series of events that shines a spotlight on some of the systemic issues facing the country's correctional institutions.

On Friday, May 20, the correctional workers' union in the northeastern state of Ceará began a strike to demand better working conditions.

According to local news outlet Tribuna do Ceará, the striking guards attempted to prevent inmates' family members from visiting their relatives on Saturday, May 21, sparking conflicts between the guards, the police and the inmates' family members outside the prisons, and setting off riots inside several facilities.

The union called an end to the strike on Saturday evening after reaching a tentative salary agreement with the local government.

The rioting, however, continued for several more days, with prisoners calling attention to severe overcrowding and other grievances. By Tuesday, May 24, the riots had left at least 18 people dead, some of whom had been burned beyond recognition by fires started during the disturbances.

Amid the chaos, authorities decided to transfer some inmates to a facility that was still partially under construction. At least 20 of those inmates escaped, causing panic in a nearby town, where residents reported that escapees had been breaking into and robbing homes.

Local officials have stated that the riots have ceased, but it remains unclear exactly how many inmates escaped and how many are still at large.

InSight Crime Analysis

The situation in Ceará is emblematic of some of the major problems facing Brazil's penetentiary system at the national level -- namely, poor management and severe overcrowding. These issues appear to have combined to create a volatile state of affairs in Ceará that led to the chaos observed over the past week.

In its most recent human rights report on Brazil, the US State Department noted that "poor working conditions and low pay for prison guards" remain a problem in many Brazilian facilities, often contributing to corruption that allows powerful gangs like the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) to operate with relative impunity inside prison walls.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Prisons

Brazil's prisons are also extremely overcrowded. According to the London-based Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the penitentiary system held more than 600,000 prisoners in June 2014 when it was only designed to hold about 375,000. As Human Rights Watch detailed in a report last year, this contributes to horrific conditions for inmates, who often lack access to adequate food, shelter and healthcare.

This overcrowding can also create difficulties for authorities attempting to maintain order within the prisons. Gang violence and deadly riots like those seen recently in Ceará are not uncommon in Brazil.  

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 2 SEP 2014

A deadly riot in southern Brazil illustrates how inhumane prison conditions and powerful prison gangs create an explosive situation, which authorities…

BRAZIL / 9 MAR 2012

The upcoming Supreme Court trial of a senator in Brazil charged with employing workers in 'slave-like conditions' highlights the issue…

GUATEMALA / 4 SEP 2014

The former army captain convicted of killing Bishop Juan Gerardi ran a massive bribery ring from prison, according to an…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Memo Fantasma Coverage Gets Worldwide Attention

1 JUL 2022

Guillermo Acevedo, the former Colombian drug lord and paramilitary commander better known as Memo Fantasma, may soon be allowed to leave prison. Since first revealing the identity of Memo Fantasma…