Opinion: In Brazil, prison riots and killings expose the structural failures of mass incarceration

Article by Henrique Apolinário at Penal Reform International


In 2017 alone, at least 119 people were killed during prison riots in Brazil, while other prisoners have simply disappeared. Henrique Apolinario, a lawyer at Conectas Human Rights, discusses what needs to be done in order to avoid further tragedies and to address the underlying causes of the crisis.

2017 started with terrible news in Brazil. On New Year’s Eve, 56 people were killed during riots at the Anísio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in Manaus in the state of Amazonas. Two weeks later, 37 people were killed in the Penitentiary of Monte Cristo, in Roraima. Lastly, after two weeks of riots, at least 26 people were killed in Alcaçuz Penitentiary in Rio Grande do Norte. The official narrative for these terrible episodes is that organised crime gangs were fighting for control of state operations and the lucrative international trade route via the Amazon river; the reality, however, is that the structural failure of the Brazilian prison system relies on the stability of these gangs to maintain any sort of normality.


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