Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Inmate Decapitated in Brazilian Prison Riot

For the second time in less than two weeks an inmate was assaulted and beheaded amid violence in a Brazilian prison.

According to the Amazonia state military police, two people died in a prison after fight broke out amid the prisoners.  One of the deceased was decapitated and had his head thrown over the prison walls onto the street.  The other fatality was stabbed to death during the riot that lasted approximately nine hours.

The incident in Parintins comes after at least five prisoners died during a bloody disturbance in Paraná state from August 24-26.  Two inmates were decapitated and killed during a 45-hour standoff between police and prisoners protesting over alleged abuses committed by the guards in the Cascavel facility. 

The Brazilian prison system is plagued with problems including correctional facilities overrun by gangs like the notorious First Command of the Capital and where nearly half of the roughly 550,000 inmates are awaiting trial.  But perhaps the biggest challenge is massive overcrowding in prisons like the one in Parintins that was nearly at double its capacity.  Nearly 2200 inmates are crammed into the Pedrinhas prison that was built to house only 1770 and where last December prisoners filmed themselves next to decapitated bodies “showing them off like trophies.”

Brazil’s prison woes were one of the topics discussed during Monday’s televised presidential debate that included incumbent Dilma Rousseff and her main challenger, Marina Silva.  Though economic issues dominated the highly tense debate Rousseff did admit that conditions in the worst correctional facilities were “barbaric.”

Overcrowding in prisons isn’t just a problem in Brazil but also throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  A recent report by the Iberoamerican Ombudsman Federation found that fourteen countries in the region have overpopulated prisons and half of these have prison populations at over double the capacity.  This may explain why a study from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory concluded that at least 150 inmates died in that South American country this year.  But even in nations with low prison overcrowding like Chile other problems persist such as instances of physical abuse by guards against inmates.

Some Latin American countries have turned to privately-run prisons as a potential solution but results have reportedly been mixed:
While most prisons remain under state control in the region, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Peru have used outsourcing in an attempt to improve the management of overcrowded prison systems.

Chile, the pioneer, has awarded eight facilities under this system since 2000, while Peru has begun a pilot project and Mexico has opened three jails under PPPs. Several Brazilian states also awarded public-private contracts to build new jails.
However, questions over concessions' efficiency in the sector remain and Chile has said it will build two planned jails with exclusively public funds as a result.
Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – BNamericas; El País; El Ciudadano; Ahram Online; Noticias Montreal; LAHT; Los Angeles Times; CNN; Buenos Aires Herald

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