Forgotten Prisoners

In a country where state prisons bulge, inmates just remain behind bars, although they served their ‘time’.

Inspections carried out by the Conselho Nacional de Justiça (CNJ = National Council of Justice) in four of the 27 federal states of Brazil discovered that more than a thousand prisoners, even after they had served their criminal sentence, were still behind bars. Around 1.218 other convicts had no access to the facilities to which they were entitled – as a pardon, a semi-open regime or external work. Without a lawyer or a public defender assigned to their case, these prisoners eventually just are forgotten. This situation of neglect was found in the federal states of Rio de Janeiro, Maranhão, Pará and Piauí.

So far, 4.731 criminal processes have been analysed. After visits to the state prisons by the CNJ, 2.218 prisoners received some form of benefits which they were entitled to, but never received. The situation was most precarious in Teresina, the capital of Piauí. In eight prisons in this city, 1.087 cases were analyzed with the result that 464 prisoners were assigned additional facilities, while 345 were released immediately.

In the cities in the federal state of Pará the processes of 1.641 prisoners were analyzed. 435 prisoners (you can’t even say: convicts) were released.

But heck, why make a fuss about it? Prisons are overcrowded, so what? A detainee cost “only” BRL 1,200 (less than € 400) average a month. Who cares? Certainly not the public administration or the local politicians.

The state of Pará has nine thousand prisoners, of whom 70% (6,300) are between 18 and 29 years and herewith it is the champion again. Pará is one of the states where the prisoners are the youngest.
More than 6 thousand young people, who might be part of the economically active population of the state, but now, dominate the unproductive army under harsh living conditions in prison and police cells in the capital and the interior.

CNJ-judge, Gilson Dipp said that inspections were executed in state prisons, where local authorities have greater difficulties in terms of supervision. “The results are abhorrent. It is terrible. The people who remain behind bars are the people that lack any defence. The persons involved are poor, without the support of a public defender.”

Far from being an exception is the position of a detainee accused of a crime, and is imprisoned illegally. Pará, in this respect is champion again of the most inhumane penal system. Data show that with the label ‘pre-trial detention’ detainees are held in police stations for a period of five years without ever being tried.

The Brazilian Code of Criminal Procedure provides that within a period of 5 to 90 days, a detainee should be heard by a judge for the first time. The period may be extended, but from then on the detention is illegal and inhumane.
From data released by Susipe (Prison Administration), it appears that of the detainees in custody, 73 are there already for five years, 153 four years, 416 prisoners three years, 1.125 two years, 956 prisoners for a period of six months to one year, 706 prisoners with less than six months and “only” 702 prisoners are still within the established legal term. And that is pre-trial detention without any trial.