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Penal Institutions in Brazil



The two general categories of penal institutions are correctional and detention. The first category includes penitentiaries, houses of custody and treatment, penal and agricultural colonies, and houses of correction. Of Brazil's approximately 5,000 penal institutions, fifty-one are correctional institutions, including twenty-seven penitentiaries, six houses of custody and treatment, twelve agricultural colonies, and six houses of correction. The second category includes military prisons, houses of detention, and juvenile correctional institutions.

The Federal Prison Department (Departamento Penitenciário Nacional--Depen) is responsible for operating the penal system. Depen is subordinate to the National Council of Criminal and Prison Policy (Conselho Nacional de Política Criminal e Penitenciária--CNPCP), which is under the Ministry of Justice. Places of detention include twelve military prisons, 1,580 prisons, 2,803 jails, and five institutions for minors. The separate women's penal institutions are usually operated by nuns. Prisoners in penitentiaries are assigned to work units in maintenance shops and in light industrial plants that produce and maintain the clothing and furnishings used in the institutions. In some minimum security agricultural colonies, inmates have their families live with them during their incarceration.

Prison conditions generally range from poor to harsh, and include overcrowding, a lack of hygiene, poor nutrition, and even instances of torture. In 1995 Brazil's overcrowded prisons held 129,169 inmates in space designed for 59,954. That compares with 23,385 inmates in 1965, nearly a sixfold increase. Often there are six to eight prisoners in a cell meant for three. The Ministry of Justice reported that thirty-three prison rebellions occurred in 1994, while attempted or successful escapes averaged almost nine per day.

Internal security in Brazil is primarily the responsibility of state governments. The Federal Police play only a minor role and are limited by their small force. The largest and most important State Police force is the Military Police, whose members are uniformed and responsible for maintaining order. They also serve as army reserves. The Civil Police constitute a much smaller force, and are responsible for investigations.

Data as of April 1997






 



 


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