Organizations call for approval of urgent measures for prison population during pandemic

In a letter sent to the Lower House of Congress, they reinforce their support for Bill 978; Brazil exceeds 250 cases in prisons

In order to stop the spread of the pandemic in prisons, nearly 70 organizations have signed a letter reinforcing the urgency of passing Bill 928 of 2020.

The bill aims to drastically reduce the prison population in the country, focusing on people who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly over 60, pregnant women and prisoners with comorbidities (HIV and tuberculosis, for example). Afterwards, the plan is to also include people convicted of non-violent crimes and with sentences of less than 4 years.

Brazil’s prison population stands at 755,274, according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Justice. According to the government, 694 tests have been carried out to date in the prison and youth detention systems. The Ministry of Health has confirmed 146 suspected cases, 104 confirmed cases and four deaths.

Reinforcing the importance of the bill, the civil society organizations highlighted the value of the measures already established by the CNJ (National Council of Justice) in Recommendation 62.

Across the country, Covid-19 has been spreading rapidly and reaching significant numbers in the prison system. Data from Depen (National Prison Department) reveal that the states with the most suspected cases are Minas Gerais (49), São Paulo (37), Rio Grande do Sul (12) and Rio de Janeiro (5). In Rio de Janeiro, the number of prison deaths from respiratory problems doubled compared to the same period last year, reaching 14 cases. According to the State Prison Department, there has been just one death from the novel coronavirus.

However, experts from the MNPCT (National Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture) believe there have been more deaths.

In terms of confirmations, the Federal District of Brasilia has reported the most critical situation, with 72 cases. The measures adopted in the country’s capital include house arrest – for the prisoners who are entitled to this concession – and daily disinfections of the cells and the suspension of visits. These measures have been in place since the beginning of the month (April 8), according to Depen.

In the northern region of the country, Roraima is the state with the most cases. Eight have been confirmed to date. With 233,089 prisoners, the largest prison population in the country, the state of São Paulo has six confirmed cases and the most deaths: three in total, followed by Rio de Janeiro with one confirmed death.


 >>>Read the letter in full here.

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