A more reliable picture shows that the number of deaths in Brazilian prisons this year increased by 50% compared to 2019. The available data on coronavirus in prisons reflects a scenario of underreporting and lack of information.
Moreover, the physical structure of prisons accelerates the spread of the virus: these are closed and poorly ventilated spaces. While in normal conditions one person spreads the virus to three others, in prisons, it is estimated that one confirmed infection reaches ten others.
As Bruno Shimizu, a Brazilian public defender, pointed out, “the management of the pandemic in prisons is consistent with a necropolitical project that allows people to die while failing to produce data and ignoring underreporting to make the genocide less evident”. The public policies presented by the State so far have been inefficient in protecting the prison population, a negligence that has proved deadly.
Although visits have been banned during the pandemics, people continue to be arrested and bring the virus into the prisons. Due to lack of space, the Ministry of Justice suggested that prisoners with COVID-19 be separated from others in high-occupancy cells by curtains or lines in the ground, measures that have no medical backing or proof of effectiveness in curbing contagion.
Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, the Brazilian National Council of Justice recommended that judges release prisoners in high-risk groups of severe COVID-19. However, of the city of São Paulo’s 35,000 prisoners who met the criteria for release, only 700 had their request accepted by the judge, according to the Office of the Public Defender.
While judges have the power to release prisoners, Bolsonaro took a personal stand against their release and refrains from seeking more effective measures to ensure the protection of this group. In late March, Bolsonaro stated prisoners should not be released, affirming they were “safer” inside. As absurd as this statement may sound, it is consistent with a number of Bolsonaro's previous positions.
CommentsWe encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.