Legal setback

Challenged in the Supreme Court, prison sentence enforcement departments are set up in São Paulo Challenged in the Supreme Court, prison sentence enforcement departments are set up in São Paulo

The São Paulo State Court will open this Tuesday, June 16, the first State Prison Sentence Enforcement Department in São Paulo. These departments will eventually replace the state’s prison sentence enforcement courts, which are currently decentralized. According to civil society organizations and bodies of the justice system, such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, this is no cause for celebration. They claim that the new departments will distance judges even further from the prisons and the cases under their responsibility.

The monitoring of detention conditions by the Judiciary is provided for in the Prison Sentence Enforcement Law and it is essential, for example, to combat the practice of torture. The centralization of the courts will make individual monitoring by judges even more difficult – particularly when considering that the prison population of São Paulo (207,400 people, according to data from the Ministry of Justice) is the largest in the country.

In a statement of condemnation released today, institutions that work with human rights affirmed that the measure will distance the judges from the convicted prisoners, instead of bringing them closer. According to the organizations, in addition to diverting the judges from their responsibility to monitor prison sentences, the new departments also violate the natural judge principle and the impartiality and independence of judges.

This, they explain, is because the State Court can appoint or transfer the judges responsible for the departments – in the prison sentence enforcement courts, judges cannot be removed, which minimizes the chances of interference or intimidation.

Click here to read the statement in full.

In 2014, in an unprecedented joint effort, the Office of the Attorney General, the Public Defender’s Office, the Brazilian Bar Association, the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Association of Judges for Democracy filed a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality in the Supreme Court against Law 1208/2013, which created the departments. In December, Conectas and Pastoral Carcerária, the Catholic Church’s prisoner outreach service, submitted an amicus curiae reinforcing the thesis that the São Paulo law violates constitutional principles. The case is pending a decision by the justices of the Supreme Court.

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email