Strengthening the Public Defense Office as a Monitoring Body in São Paulo

Friday, July 1, 2011

The APT was in São Paulo, Brazil, from June 20th to 22nd, offering a training workshop on preventive monitoring for 37 public defenders of the state. The 'International Workshop on Monitoring of Places of Deprivation of Liberty' brought together public defenders from 28 cities in the state with expertise in different areas: criminal enforcement, jury trial, childhood and youth rights, and human rights.

With the recent amendments made to Articles 61 and 81 of the Brazilian Penal Execution Law (Law 7210, 1984), the Public Defense Office was entered on the list of bodies responsible for monitoring the execution of sentences of deprivation of liberty and the respect and observation of the constitutional rights of persons in confinement. As such, it was granted, as of 19 August 2010, the attribution to visit prisons regularly to check on conditions of detention. The main objectives of the workshop were (i) address a systematic methodology of preventive monitoring applying relevant international standards and norms, (ii) trigger a reflection on the role of the Public Defense Office, through an institutional approach, as a monitoring body, and (iii) contribute to the debate about the creation of a unit inside the Public Defense Office with a specific mandate to carry out preventive monitoring of places of detention with a specialized methodology.

Since last year, civil society organizations together with the Center for Human Rights and Citizenship of the Public Defense Office of the State of São Paulo, have been debating and promoting the creation of a local preventive mechanism (MLP), by enactment of specific legislation, in conformity with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, inspired by initiatives already adopted in the states of Alagoas and Rio de Janeiro. The debate began at the International Seminar on Enhancing the Prevention of Torture, held last year in São Paulo, co-hosted by APT, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Pastoral Carcerária Nacional, ACAT, and Ilanud-Brazil