Note from BW of Brazil: In practical terms, the justice system is supposed to provide equal access and render equal treatment to all whether in situations of judgement, imprisonment or fair treatment for crimes committed. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to go. But in reality, like so many other things in Brazil in which treatment can be measured along terms of race, the justice system is yet another example of how it can be divided into black and poor, white and rich. In other words, justice is neither blind nor color blind. As another report recently confirmed, the imprisoned woman in Brazil is young, black and with low education. Ph.D candidate Mirian França’s memorable ordeal shows that skin color can even trump education, a conclusion she came to after spending time locked up for a crime that police didn’t have any valid reasoning for seeing her as a suspect. Be sure to keep Mirian’s case in mind as you read the story below.
Justice is white and rich
Increasingly marginalized, they expose racism and the feminization of poverty in Brazil
By Djamila Ribeiro
On October 15th, Juliana Cristina da Silva, 28, responsible for running over two workers who painted a bicycle lane, was released from prison where she was from the day of the accident, the 18th, to respond to the process in freedom.
Juliana will have to pay a bail of 20 minimum wages, the equivalent of 15 thousand reais, and attend the forum every two months. It was verified that Juliana was drunk when the accident occurred.
José Airton de Andrade and Raimundo Barbosa dos Santos died as victims of hit and run. The first is survived by two children and the second, four. In addition to running over and killing the two men, Juliana fled the scene of the accident and continued on about three kilometers before being stopped by the police. And Juliana will respond in freedom.
Dina Ahmed, a lawyer and activist, has completed a master’s research this year at PUC São Paulo, in which she analyzed the way that black defendants are treated by the judiciary. The study Rés negras, Judiciário branco: uma análise da interseccionalidade de gênero, raça e classe na produção da punição em uma prisão paulistana (Black defendants, white judiciary: an analysis of the intersectionality of gender, race and class in the production of punishment in a São Paulo prison), was intended to offer an intersectional analysis of gender, race and class on the unequal distribution of punishment in the São Paulo justice system and deepen the relationship between the feminization of poverty and feminization of criminal punishment.
“The intersectional analysis offers possibilities to decentralize (or make complex) studies on the prisons that have privileged the perspective of social class detriment of a wider and more consistent approach to the Brazilian racial reality,” says Dina.
“Although women prisoners have been the subject of a growing interest among researchers of the national prison system, black women do not appear in their discussions, but they provide the main group of prey in the country. Some studies have shown that women, in general, have a specific vulnerability, marked by their gender in a society structured on inequality between men and women,” she continues.
“While such studies help to understand the gender dimension in prisons – once they have the merit of de-masculinizing the accounts of the prison world – they have proved insufficient with regard to the specificity of black women,” she concludes.
To do this, Dina interviewed some black defendants to to talk about their situations and eventual violence suffered and the stories demonstrate the partiality of the Brazilian justice. Dina didn’t put down the real names of women, according to her the use of fictitious names was political “to preserve the image of the interviewee and to overcome the bureaucratic logic that reduced them to numbers, both in their records to which I had access, as in the criminal processes.” Of these, the story of Joana stands out.
“I caught seven years again and I’m here with my daughter, and now she had a baby, my grandson. When I was arrested, I worked as carroceira (wagon carrier) and lived on the streets, under the Glicério viaduct. I was in cracolândia (1) and the police took me. I swallowed three crack rocks to not be being arrested. I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve come here. The first time was when I was 17 years old when I went to Febem (2), and today I am 49 years old. I have lived here more than outside. What I want now is to be able to stay with my daughter closer and my grandson. The boy’s father the police killed and they want to take my grandson for adoption, but I won’t let them. I’ve talked to the ministry,” she said an interview held on October 5, 2014.
About Joana, Dina says, “In my meetings with Joana I perceived the figure of a black woman, carroceira, no teeth, obese and addicted to drugs. Joana’s experience as a user and seller of drugs in Cracolândia helps to understand what the American sociologist Julia Sudbury calls the ‘feminization of poverty’”.
Increasingly marginalized from access to consumer spheres of production and citizenship rights, black women, like Joana, figure into the illegal economy of drug trafficking as sellers, mulas (drug runners) or simply consumers. Joana has a history of drug use that has everything to do with the process of feminization of poverty and racism in Brazil.
Her imprisonment story began at 11 years old when she lived between the streets and state shelters. She was apprehended at 17 years of age in the current Fundação Casa (FEBEM) and today is serving in Feminina de Santana penitentiary with her daughter and her newborn grandson. Between the prison and the streets, Joana has a life marked by a patriarchal assault on her body that can be seen in her sick and aged appearance, although she is only 49 years old.”
Joana was not so as lucky as Juliana. Joana is black, poor and from very early on has suffered from the State’s failure. Juliana is white and rich, and even having killed two people, benefits from the action of the State granting privileges to the white group because of structural racism. Joana, at 49 years will continue incarcerated and with no opportunities.
Juliana, after taking the lives of two workers for drunken driving, which also configures a crime, will spend Christmas with her family because in the unequal racist logic, she was just a good girl who made a mistake.
Source: Carta Capital
- Meaning “crackland”, it’s the name given to areas that have the reputation of high drug trafficking and usage
- Fundação Estadual para o Bem Estar do Menor or State Foundation for the Well-Being of the Minor (FEBEM) – Foundation whose function is to carry out educational measures applied by the judiciary to adolescents aged 12-21 who have infractions, as determined by the Statute of Children and Adolescents. Today is known as Fundação Centro de Atendimento Socioeducativo ao Adolescente (FUNDAÇÃO CASA/SP)