Brazil’s bloody prison system
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Brazil’s bloody prison system

While Colombia’s penal system has been in the news of late due to overcrowding issues and with neighboring Venezuela facing human rights abuses committed against its inmates, what of Brazil?

A grisly end

In fact, cannibalism and decapitations are just some of the horrors to make headlines, namely due to the murder of Edson Carlos Mesquita da Silva back in December 2013.  Da Silva’s body was cut up into 59 pieces and disposed of in black bags through the prison’s garbage chute. At the forensics it then transpired that the victim’s liver was missing.

“According to a witness that we are keeping under oath and (for whom) protection was requested, the liver was roasted, divided amongst the inmates and consumed,”Gilberto Câmara França Júnior, the prosecutor in charge of the case told the BBC.

Da Silva was imprisoned in the northeast of Brazil, in Pedrinhas prison, Maranhão state. It later transpired he had fallen victim to the so-called Angels of death, a group of highly intellectual, violent criminals.

Overcrowding and violence

Brazil too is suffering as a result of overcrowding and lawless gangs ruling the country’s penal system. The number of women prisoners in Brazil alone has grown by 567.4 percent between 2000 and 2014, EM reports.

The country’s prisons only have space to hold 377,000 inmates, but are currently housing some 607,731 prisoners, that’s a 161 percent occupancy rate.

Medieval conditions, horrendous torture and decapitations are also amongst some of the crimes committed by inmates, with Pedrinhas the crime scene for various decapitations which came to light at the beginning of 2014, recorded by a hand-held videocamera.

Not to mention the rate of HIV is 40 times higher in the Brazil penitentiary system than across the rest of the country, with group rape and sexual harassment among some of the abuse claims filed by inmates, and subsequently ignored by prison staff, according to a recent report released by NGO Human Rights Watch.

Certainly there is much to be done to combat the increasing levels of crime inside the country’s penal system, but is it really a government priority? With NGOs highlighting the problem there is some hope that Brazil will rethink how to combat increased overcrowding and violence, but is the penitentiary network really a top priority?

As the country has recently invested in its defense network and been rocked by corruption claims, maybe then the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” is one being purveyed by Brazilian government.

However, the chance of a decent meal and a bed to sleep in is perhaps a more attractive prospect for those doing their time, rather than being faced with the uncertainty of life outside.

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