A human rights watchdog says penitentiary staff in Brazil’s impoverished northeastern state of Pernambuco have turned over control of prisons to inmates.
Human Rights Watch says that the lack of guards at overcrowded state prisons means staff at some facilities have ceded control to hand-picked inmates known as “keyholders,” who extort and sell drugs and even sleeping space in cells.
The report released Tuesday says Pernambuco has the worst prison overcrowding problem in Brazil, with penitentiaries there housing three times more inmates than intended. The state also has Brazil’s worst ratio of guards to prisoners, with fewer than one guard per 30 inmates.
The group says the conditions lead to high rates of tuberculosis and HIV among inmates, as well as sexual and other types of violence.