Prison without trial

IACHR report criticizes growth of pre-trial detention in Brazil IACHR report criticizes growth of pre-trial detention in Brazil

The report on the use of pre-trial detention in the Americas, published by the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS) on September 5 in São Paulo, criticizes the growth of pre-trial detention in Brazil and other countries in the Americas.

The document highlights that, in December 2012, 37.6% of the Brazilian prison population was formed by detainees who had never received a definitive conviction. In 2009, the rate was 32.2%. The data, obtained from Depen (National Prison Department), do not include the more than 41,000 people held in police stations around the country.

The number of pre-trial detainees in the rest of the continent has followed the same trend: between 2009 and 2012, according to the IACHR, the number increased 27.7%. In some countries, such as Bolivia, pre-trial detainees represent more than 80% of all prisoners.

“The report reveals that in these countries, unfortunately, pre-trial detention is used excessively, which only increases the prison population and leads to critical and degrading situations,” said James Cavallaro, IACHR rapporteur, at the launch of the report at the University of São Paulo Law School.

According to Cavallaro, pre-trial detention has destroyed the lives of thousands of people who are serving time for crimes they did not commit. “[This procedure] violates clear rules of the international treaties that have been ratified by the countries of the Americas, especially the American Convention, which has also been signed by Brazil,” said the rapporteur.

“It is important to see who is inside [the prisons]. Which lives have been imprisoned. You will see that they are the poor, black youth of this country, overwhelmingly. And this is the same in every state that we have seen,” said Sandra Carvalho, of Justiça Global, a member organization of the Criminal Justice Network.

Renato De Vitto, director of Depen, pointed out that pre-trial detention rates in some states exceed the national average, such as in Amazonas (67%), Piauí (65%) and Minas Gerais (63%). De Vitto also said that “matters related to public security, criminal policy and the prison situation must necessarily be shared between the three branches and the three levels of government”.

According to Luis Lanfredi, coordinator of DMF/CNJ (Department of Monitoring and Oversight of the Prison System and the System for Enforcing Youth Offender Rehabilitation Measures of the National Justice Council), the sharp growth of the prison population in recent years has coincided with the process of democratization. “The phenomenon of democratization has been accompanied by a cult of punitivism and mass incarceration without any accountability,” he concluded.

Open to the public, the event was organized by the Criminal Justice Network, the University of São Paulo Law School and the Prison Situation Center of the Public Defender’s Office of São Paulo.

Click here to read the IACHR report in full.

Complaints in the UN

Today, before the UN Human Rights Council, Brazil lost an opportunity to respond to the situation. The alarming numbers also featured in a report presented to the members of the Council by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In her speech, the Brazilian ambassador in Geneva, Regina Dunlop, made no mention of the factors that cause and intensify the abusive use of pre-trial detention. Click here to read a summary of the meeting.

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