Urgent measures needed to prevent more deaths in prison in Brazil

Friday, January 10, 2014

The extreme and brutal prison violence in the Brazilian state of Maranhão demonstrates the deepest disrespect for human dignity by those who are responsible for ensuring the physical and mental well-being of persons in their custody.

According to the National Council of Justice, sixty people were killed last year in the Maranhão penitentiary system, while reports were also made on wives and sisters of detainees being raped inside the prison. Such violence could have been avoided, had the authorities only acted on alerts about the worsening situation from the local civil society.

The APT, together with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Prison Ministry of Brazil, today expressed its greatest concern with the lack of concrete measures by State authorities, including the Prosecutor´s Office, to improve the situation. The severely overcrowded prison system in Maranhão involves a permanent risk of violence and abuse for the detainees. We remind the authorities that when a State deprives people of their liberty, it becomes responsible for protecting their fundamental rights, particularly the right to life and integrity.

We urgently call on state of Maranhão and federal authorities to take effective actions for systemic changes in the prison management and in the criminal justice system, including to:

  • Undertake a prompt, impartial and effective federal investigation into the killings.
  • Establish national and local mechanisms for the prevention of torture, in line with the Federal Law 12.847 from 2013.
  • Ensure effective participation of civil society and social movements at national and local levels in the control bodies of penitentiary institutions and  public safety and law enforcement agencies.

For more information, see the joint statement, in English or in Portuguese.

Staff members