De-incarceration: an urgent approach

The year ended with a sad note: there are more than 726 thousand people incarcerated in Brazil. We surpassed Russia and reached the position of third largest prison population in the world, according to Infopen. More than half of the prison population are black young people between the age of 18 and 29. Criminal offenses related to drug trafficking are the most common causes of imprisionament, reaching 28% of the total prison population. Robberies and thefts combined reach 37%. The insistence on the predominant use of prison sentences as the main response to any committed crime reveals the choice of a punitive criminal policy that leads to mass incarceration. Facing this terrible scenario, Justiça Global participated in several initiatives, in 2017, to confront racist and poverty criminalizing policies and systematic violations committed in Brazil’s prisons and juvenile criminal system. Among them, we highlight two collective actions: the construction of the “Frente por Desencarceramento RJ”, a front driven mainly by the concern that at least 254 inmates died under the custody of the state of Rio in the previous year, and also by the context of rebellions and massacres occurred earlier this year, where in the first fifteen days of January, 133 people were killed in penitentiaries in the North and Northeast.

This front was founded by former inmates released from the prison and juvenile system, family members of ex-offenders and victims of police violence, social movements, Human Rights organizations, lawyers and favelas dwellers. Among its guidelines is the elaboration and implementation of a Plan to Reduce the Prison and Socio-Educational System of Rio de Janeiro Overcrowding, without creating new vacancies, important to emphasize. According to Monique Cruz, a Justiça Global researcher, “We need to unveil illusions about imprisonment as a solution to urban violence. It’s a myth. Incarceration only generates pain, torture, and stigma”. At the time, more than 80 entities adhered to the principle letter of the Front.

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