A report by the São Paulo State Public Defender’s Office (DPE-SP), carried out based on inspections during the pandemic, points to a worsening of human rights violations in prisons in the state. Of the 27 units visited, 81.48% (23 of them) were overcrowded.
State government data indicate that in May 2021, 23.55% of penitentiaries were over capacity. The work was developed by the Specialized Nucleus of Prison Situation (Nesc) of the defender’s office.
The nucleus carried out 27 inspection activities in prisons in the state of São Paulo during the covid-19 pandemic. Since 2014, 242 inspections have been carried out by Nesc, 62 of them during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, according to the report, people in the risk group were exposed to covid-19, without a minimum health team or the possibility of emergency care in the public network due to lack of escort. “The diagnosis presented is capable of laying bare the chaos and barbarism experienced in the São Paulo prison system by prisoners, their families and friends, as well as by all those who work in such places: criminal police, public defenders, lawyers. ”
The defender recalls Recommendation No. 62/2020 of the National Council of Justice (CNJ) indicated “adoption of preventive measures to the spread of infection by the new coronavirus within the scope of establishments of the prison system, including the replacement of prison in prison units with house arrest. for more vulnerable groups and crimes committed without serious threat or violence”.
The report highlights, however, that the implementation of this recommendation was “negligible”. The survey shows that of the 27,500 cases in the state in which there were requests for release due to the pandemic, in the period from the beginning of the pandemic until September 29, 2020, only 5.5% were released.
The document recalls that Brazil is the third country, in absolute numbers, that most arrests people in the world. São Paulo, in turn, has 201 thousand people incarcerated in 179 prisons, which represents almost a third of the Brazilian prison population. “The crime that most arrests people in the state of São Paulo is drug trafficking (40.21%), a crime that does not involve violence or serious threat and that in other countries has already been regulated as a commercial activity”, points out the defender.
The overrepresentation of black people in São Paulo prisons is also a hallmark of the system, “reflecting the structural racism of our society and the institutional racism of public control agencies”, the text notes. The defender highlights that the state has 34.6% of its population that declares itself black, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), while the prison system has more than 60% of its population of black people.
“The scenario presented is one of total illegality.” In the opinion of the defenders, the basic rights of detainees were disrespected. In addition, the “perpetuation of incarceration in conditions that create or lead to the aggravation of health problems and endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned in prisons in São Paulo” is observed.
The report highlights, among the situations faced during the pandemic, the absence of mass testing, insufficient delivery of masks and disrespect for the priority established in the National Immunization Plan.
The defense calls for a review of the “political option of the State of São Paulo for the mass incarceration of its poor and vulnerable population”. For the agency, this situation is “unsustainable”. “It is necessary to rationalize this system and, above all, to start treating prisoners as human beings”, says the report.
The Secretariat of Penitentiary Administration (SAP) assesses, through a note, that the “survey of the Public Defender’s Office presents distortions”. He informs that, currently, the system has 199,652 people in custody, which corresponds to 32% more than the total capacity of vacancies. According to the secretariat, the National Council for Criminal and Penitentiary Policy recommends an overcrowding of up to 37.5%.
The ministry also highlights that the prison population in the state has been falling for more than three years and that this is due to the construction and delivery of new prisons. Eight new prisons were delivered, with an increase of 6,600 vacancies. The secretariat also informed that five units are under construction to create over 4,100 new jobs.
Regarding the covid-19 data, the secretariat points out that “the defense also distorts data”. According to the agency, the fatality rate from Covid-19 in the São Paulo prison system is 0.51%, while the national rate is 2.2%. “The two-dose vaccination schedule was completed in 100% of the prison population, with the application of booster in progress”, points out in a note.
The agency informs that all prisoners have “guaranteed health care”. In addition, he states that prisons receive periodic extermination. The secretariat also highlights that the units “are frequently inspected by representatives of the Public Ministry, the Judiciary and civil society bodies, and any failures in relation to prisoners’ rights are investigated according to legal criteria of transparency and efficiency”.
Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News