criminogenic state



Considerations on the Brazilian prison system

“House of horrors”, “dreadful system”, “medieval dungeons” are some of the names attributed to Brazilian prisons: those that hold the largest number of inmates who have never been tried (at least forty percent of the prison population), despite enjoy the constitutional presumption of innocence.

Foot. Valdir Silveira, who coordinated the Pastoral Carcerária for several years, goes so far as to state that “the Brazilian prison system is structured to torture and kill – for nothing else”. And he adds: “if they put dogs and cats in Brazilian prisons treated like prisoners are, we would have millions on the streets and international mobilization against Brazil”.

They are subject from physical violence to deprivation of minimal hygiene care. In many cases, there is no soap, rarely toilet paper, even sanitary pads for women.

Brazilian prisons are at the top of the ranking world's most infectious, overcrowded, costly and poorly managed. This is a graceful understatement, for many prisons are governed by those who are locked up in them. They are the ones who define the rules of coexistence and even who are entrusted with their keys!

A logical corollary of this surreal delegation of the State to its custodians: “when a prisoner decides to kill another, it is difficult to avoid it”, stated, smoothly, the former Secretary of Justice (?) and Citizenship (??) of Rio Grande do Norte, Walber Virguline. No one is unaware of the defects of the prison system (?) despite the fact that there are those who evaluate these “houses of horrors” as “five star hotels”. tell yourself, in passing, that this assessment of this “system” (which produces the opposite of what it should favor: the recovery of the convicts and their social reintegration) changes completely, when they themselves are hosted, even if circumstantially, in its dependencies.

This was the case of the criminal Bolsonarists who invaded and destroyed the buildings of the Three Powers. They alleged disrespect for human rights, which they previously denied to “bandits” from less noble lineages than theirs. And this, even though they received privileged treatment when they were arrested in Brasilia, with monitoring, in the premises where they were collected, by the OAB, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office and the Public Defender's Office of the Union, all attesting that their rights were being respected.

Another is the opinion that the “ill-born”, those without money, and, consequently, without lawyers, have about Brazilian prisons, such as the inmates who spend years on end in these “hotels” without being judged, for, in the end, with lives completely spoiled, most of them will be considered innocent.

As we have seen, those who thought they were enviable, such as Bolsonaristas arrested, radically change their minds if one day they themselves, a child or a close relative, is, for example, framed by the police as a drug dealer, being a mere user; or, innocent, is arrested, mistaken for the real culprit; or if, for any other reason, the condition of “guests” of the supposed “luxury hotels” becomes bitter, whether for days or months.

Having abdicated responsibilities in the administration of the penitentiary system and respect for the law, the State became persistently violating constitutional principles that guarantee rights and the Law on Penal Executions, as well as international conventions and treaties.

This abdication is the main cause of the uprisings that have become routine in this system, causing the loss of many lives, resulting from the practice of justice with their own hands, carried out by the convicts; of the demoralization of the authorities and the consequent generalized feeling of insecurity.

As an example: during these rebellions, murders multiplied in important cities - leading, in some of them - as happened a few years ago in Natal - even to the suspension, for several days, of services as essential as transport. public.

A particularly deleterious effect of the convicts' control of prisons is their transformation into specialized schools for the training of criminals. Those with less offensive potential are obliged, in order to survive, to join one of the criminal organizations that run the prisons and, consequently, to comply with their determinations, including committing more crimes.

Many of those who deem the inhuman conditions in prison deserved, knowing better the harsh reality of prisons, understand that it is what makes possible the expansion of criminality. Indeed, the tightening of criminal legislation, which occurred with the approval of the law on heinous crimes, in the nineties of the last century, did not contribute to its decrease. It even encouraged it, by preventing those convicted of the crimes provided for in that law from benefiting from the progression of the regime, perpetuating their stay in prison and depriving them of the possibility of resocialization.

On the other hand, the aggressive policy of incarcerating and isolating organized crime leaders in no way diminished rebellions in the penitentiary system, quite the contrary. Nor will it inhibit the use of the Armed Forces, if the public power is not capable of enforcing the Penal Execution Law, guaranteeing the physical integrity and other rights of the prisoners.

Another clear proof of the failure to tighten penal legislation is the growth, in geometric proportions, of the prison population. In the last 14 years, it has increased by 267%, reaching today the figure of 711.467 detainees. I mean, in that short period, we've practically tripled the number of people housed in our dark dungeons.

Brazil is the third country that arrests the most in the world, behind only the United States and China, which has a population five times greater than ours (and there are still tens of thousands of unfulfilled arrest warrants), earning even India for that matter.

If so, regardless of what each one thinks about human rights, everyone has an interest in humanizing prisons, through a significant reduction in the prison population, with a drastic reduction in pre-trial detention and the expansion of the use of anklets. And, above all, with the expansion of alternative penalties, such as house arrest.

On the other hand, public policies that expand areas of leisure and social interaction, encourage sports activities, offer work to prisoners, as well as drug addiction treatment and prevention programs, where they have been implemented, show their effectiveness.

Considering the cost-benefit ratio, these measures, in addition to being practical, are economical, enabling the effective rehabilitation of inmates. But they were never adopted, due to the conservative hegemony that dominates the State Powers, especially the Legislative and the Judiciary.

They will only come out of their lethargy with the awareness, by the majority of citizens, that the unjust social order, under whose aegis we live, is precisely, with the punitive ideology that anchors it, the main interested in maintaining the status quo. This, aimed, in the vast majority of cases, at the punishment of those already penalized with different forms of social exclusion.

The prevalence of this ideology has made us forget the prophetic warning of the great educator Darcy Ribeiro: “if we don't build schools now, there will be no money to build prisons”.

We have not made progress, at the necessary pace, in building quality, full-time schools that ensure full socio-cultural and labor market insertion for youth. But we paid the price for this gap, with the spread of units highly specialized in training criminals, which we euphemistically call prisons.

The background of the resigned acceptance, on the left (with the honorable exception of a minority of human rights activists) and on the right, of the calamitous situation of so-called criminal recovery establishments, is the broad hegemony of authoritarian conceptions, which put the reconstruction, on humanistic bases, of the prison system in a third place.

Changing this mentality requires awareness actions, coming from both society and the State, that identify social inequality and the consequent deprivation of quality education by the poorest as the main cause of the persistent high level of crime in the country. This change is an essential requirement for the adoption of policies that promote a prison reform worthy of the name, with the adequate rehabilitation of inmates and other preventive and educational measures suggested in this work.

*Rubens Pinto Lyra He is Professor Emeritus at UFPB. Author, among other books, of Bolsonarism: ideology, psychology, politics and related topics (CCTA/UFPB).


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