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Bloody January Spotlights Deplorable Conditions in Brazilian Prisons

LADB Article ID: 80214
Category/Department: Brazil
Date: 2017-02-17
By: Gregory Scruggs

Ten incidents in eight states across Brazil left over 140 prison inmates dead in January. With the fourth-largest prison population in the world and a history of overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, the country’s penitentiaries are potential tinderboxes. Those conditions are longstanding––a 1992 rebellion in São Paulo’s Carandiru prison left 111 dead when police regained control of the facility. In 2012, on the 20th anniversary of that infamous conflict, Amnesty International (AI) declared Brazil’s prison system “medieval.”.Judge Luís Carlos Valois used a similar term to describe Brazil’s prison conditions last month in the aftermath of a prison riot in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, when rival gangs took over the Complexo Penitenciário Anísio Jobim. Valois was the lead negotiator attempting to defuse tensions, but the state could not halt a vicious killing spree that left 56 dead, the majority decapitated. The Jan. 1 massacre was only the prelude to a gruesome fortnight, with further gang-fueled killings in prisons across the country, including the states of Alagoas, Pernambuco, Roraima, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraná, and Santa Catarina. The bloody two weeks were capped off with the death of at least 26 inmates in Natal’s Alacuz prison, in Rio Grande do Norte. Public officials believe that most of the violent acts were repercussions from the Manaus riot. Human Rights Watch’s 2017 World Report singled out Brazil for a “cycle of violence” fueled by mass incarceration that ferments criminal gangs.

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