Freeing up Pernambuco prisons


In the nearly nine years since the Pacto pela Vida started, between May 2007 and November 2015, Pernambuco’s security forces imprison more people than ever. The state’s prison population practically doubled, from 17K to 32K detainees. The number of open spots in prisons, however, increased by merely 33%, from 8.2K to 11K during the same period. The judiciary structure has also failed to keep up with the frenetic rhthym of incarceration and continues along without being able to sentence criminals in a quick enough manner. The result: the State now has the most crowded prison system in the country, with 265% occupation, according to the Ministry of Justice. And the super-occupation of cells has a high price: riots, depredation, storming of wards and deaths among inmates. Just this year, 13 were murdered.

But the simple application of the law could place nearly 30% of inmates in Pernambuco, arrested for lesser crimes, outside the prison walls. They may be able to serve out alternative sentences, freeing up the system and resulting in less government spending. Since each prisoner costs R$2K per month to the public coffers, the nearly 9K men and women that could be out of prison represent a monthly savings of R$18 million for the State.

According to the National Study of Prison Information (Infopen), from the Ministry of Justice, close to 50% of inmates in Pernambuco are in jail for selling drugs or theft. “The problem is that thousands of people are in jail for a small amount of drugs and are labeled drug dealers. In most cases they’re narcotic users and need treatment, not prison”, explains the Marcellus Ugiette, a penal law proscecutor. Situations like simple theft, which get between one and four years in jail, could also be the object of alternative sentences – such as community service – as long as the accused isn’t a violent or habitual offender. – Source (PT, more here)


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