Human rights issues law and order
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Human Rights Issues: Law and Order. Human Rights. Human rights are the basic rights that every human being should have. The Brazilian constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all people.

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Human Rights Issues: Law and Order

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Human Rights Issues: Law and Order

Human Rights

  • Human rights are the basic rights that every human being should have.

  • The Brazilian constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all people.

  • This includes prisoners – BUT significant evidence that prisoners’ rights are denied in Brazil.

Prison Life

  • Brazilian prisons are notorious for their overcrowding, corruption, violence and torture. For many years Human Rights groups blamed overcrowding for the brutal riots in Brazilian prisons.

  • Prisons are often over-crowded, few toilets, dark and infested with rats.


  • Prisoners have complained of being routinely beaten and subjected to methods of torture including the "parrot's perch" (suspension by the legs and arms from a metal bar) and electric shocks.


  • Prison population increasing and so many are kept in police lock ups, which is illegal.

  • Tens of thousands of prisoners are held for months and even years in police stations, which are not equipped for stays longer than a few weeks. In some cases, prisoners share the same bed by sleeping in shifts.

  • The high levels of overcrowding combined with low levels of staffing in some of Brazil's prisons mean that the state authorities have lost control of many areas of the prisons. These no go areas are in effect run by a small and violent groups of inmates that are a law unto themselves.

Poor medical facilities

  • Women also suffer torture. Poor care for pregnancy and child birth.

  • Children get no special attention. Parents often not informed when picked up by police.

  • HIV is reported to affect as many as 1 in ever 7 prisoners, with many more being infected with other sexually transmitted and/or bad hygiene related diseases.


  • Describe prison life in Brazilian prisons.

  • Describe the medical facilities in Brazilian prisons.

  • Human Rights groups found that in São Paulo a man served 15 years for stealing a bicycle before his records were corrected and he was freed.

  • With a prison population of over 90,000, and including one of the largest prisons in the whole region, the Sao Paulo prison system has long been in a state of severe crisis.

Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International has documented this crisis, detailing the extreme overcrowding, deaths in custody, the systematic use of torture, and lack of medical and sanitation facilities, further compounded by the use of under-trained and under-paid prison staff, unable to deal with high levels of gang warfare and regular riots.

Government Response to Human Rights

  • In response to the death of Abreu (see page 117 support materials) the Brazilian Government launched a campaign against torture.

  • Torture hotline set up but slow to implement other policies.

  • Problem – most torture victims are in prison and do not have access to a phone!


Look at the paragraph below and take notes based on it.

  • The growth of the prison population does not bear a direct relationship with crime rates. The growth of the prison population throughout Latin America has to do with the fact that tougher laws are now in place. Longer sentences are imposed and all kinds of legal benefits are cut or postponed. The United States model of being tough on crime has contaminated the world and Latin America in particular. Although Brazil does not have life imprisonment or the death penalty, some very tough legislation came around during the last decade. This is because the media in Brazil, like many countries including the UK, has over-exposed violent crime. The fear of crime has skyrocketed. People now perceive Brazil as being more violent than ever before. As a result, politicians have ended up passing what many call ‘panic legislation’. In the future, one may expect prisoners to be sentenced for a longer period of time than present. The chart below shows the length of sentence faced by prisoners for the year 2004. Approximately, a third of prisoners are serving a length of time just under 8 years. Many experts estimate that this will drop dramatically as lengthier sentences are handed out.


  • Answer the questions on Law and Order on Page 115 of your booklets.

  • Overcrowding-number or prisoners doubled between 1995 and 2003- it went from 148,760 to 308,304.

  • Poor conditions in prisons- lack of sanitation, space, medical facilities- female prisoners if pregnant very little care. Spread of disease. No space for exercise

  • Bad treatment from police officers- case study of Abreu

  • Held in police stations

  • Riots in jails because of poor conditions

  • Children arrested and parents not told.

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