Brazil's Prison Situation

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Brazil’s prisons are a human-rights disaster. Detainees—even those who have not been convicted of a crime—are held in overcrowded, violent, and disease-ridden cells. Overcrowding in the prisons of the northeastern state of Pernambuco is especially dire. The prisons hold more than three times as many inmates as their official capacity in conditions that are dangerous, unhealthy, and inhumane. During visits to Pernambuco’s prisons in 2015, a researcher from Human Rights Watch reported a cell without beds, in which 37 men slept just on sheets on the floor. Poor sanitation and ventilation, combined with overcrowding and lack of adequate medical care, allow disease to spread among inmates. The prevalence of HIV infection in Pernambuco’s prisons is 42 times that of the general population. At one prison in Pernambuco that holds 2,300 inmates—a “semi-open” facility where some inmates are allowed to come and go for work—only four guards are on duty during each shift, its director told Human Rights Watch. The extreme overcrowding and lack of sufficient staff make it impossible for prison authorities to exercise adequate official control within the prison grounds. In response, they have decided to give the authority to a single inmate within each area. They sell drugs, extort payments from fellow prisoners, and require them to pay for places to sleep. Something needs to be done in these prisons down in Brazil. The prison is not meant to be a new area for drug lords to rule. This cannot be allowed! Have you seen this anywhere else? People are even beginning to talk about overcrowded prisons in the United States.

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