HomeNewsBriefHuman Rights Watch Describes Horrific Brazil Prisons
BRIEF

Human Rights Watch Describes Horrific Brazil Prisons

BRAZIL / 21 OCT 2015 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) details the extent of inhumane conditions in several Brazilian prisons and argues that reducing pre-trial detention via more frequent custody hearings is a key way to address the problem.  

The report is based on field research in four prisons in Brazil's northeast Pernambuco state. A video accompanying the report shows dozens of prisoners crammed into cells meant to hold just six people. 

In one scene, a prisoner shows off a grisly-looking skin condition on his foot -- ill detainees are rarely taken outside the prison to seek medical care, as there are not enough guards to escort them. As a result, inmates are afflicted with diseases like tuberculosis and AIDs at much higher rates than that of the general population.  

Because there is less than one guard for every 30 inmates in Pernambuco's prisons, guards rely on other prisoners to help apply discipline and order. These prisoners are called "keyholders," as they literally hold the keys that allow them to move from one prison block to another. They are also known to sell drugs and use violence to intimidate those who do not pay their "debts," including rent money for sleeping on the floor.

InSight Crime Analysis

The HRW report describes conditions that are common in penitentiaries across Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, including Venezuela, Honduras, and Mexico. The report is also correct to argue that tackling pre-trial detention is vital for improving the situation. In Pernambuco state, 59 percent of all detainees are awaiting trial, compared to 36 percent in São Paulo -- also known for its horrifically overcrowded prisons -- and 41 percent at a national level. 

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

One way to reduce pre-trial detention would be mandating custody hearings across Brazil, the HRW report asserts. These hearings would allow judges to determine when it is truly necessary to hold a suspect in prison before his trial date. HRW notes that in one state, judges that held custody hearings over a four-and-a-half month period decided that 60 percent of detainees should not be held in pre-trial detention.  

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 / 7 MAY 2021

The stranger burst into the house, staggering and leaving a trail of blood behind him. He ran into the back,…

ARGENTINA / 11 JAN 2022

As Brazil works to maintain its dominance of the soybean market, it is facing an ascending challenge: a flood of…

GENDER AND CRIME / 7 JAN 2021

Labor initiatives inside women´s prisons in Latin America aim to improve employment opportunities for female inmates, so as to reduce…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…