In the US, there has long been an outcry against the private prison industrial complex that many see as a modern day version of slavery. With Brazil’s entry onto the world stage via its ranking as the sixth largest economy in the world and the coming of the World Cup and the Olympics comes another institution that is sure to attract world attention. Is this what it means to be a global player?
by Maira Gomes and Alexandre Saconi
The business world presents innovations in Brazil. On January 28th opened the first private prison in the country. The prison unit consists of six buildings will be explored by a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), with Gestores Prisionais Associados (GPA or Associated Prison Managers), a consortium of five companies being the company responsible. The agreement, signed in 2009 between the GPA and the government of Minas Gerais, establishes the period of 27 years for the partnership.
Here’s a breakdown of what these regimes mean in the Brazilian prison regime:
Law No. 7210 of 1984, known as the Criminal Sentencing Act, determined what each regime should have. The Penal Code, which is currently undergoing a renovation, describes each regime.
In Brazil, in a closed regime, the sentence should be in a maximum to medium security setting. In this case, the cell must have at least 6 m² and, in the case of female prisons, pregnant women and mothers with newborns should have a special area.
In a semi-open regime, serving the sentence must occur in agricultural colony, industrial or similar establishment. Here, the offender may be housed in local collectives and their sentences will be connected to their job. A common example of this type of prison is to reduce a day’s penalty for every three days worked.
The floor of each cell possesses 18 cm of concrete, a half inch steel sheet and 11 cm of concrete. The toilets and drinking fountains are also designed to prevent the hiding of drugs and other illicit materials on these sites and work with automatic suction: if an inmate put any material in it, it will be immediately discarded
In an open regime, the prisoner serves their sentences in a hostel or shelter, which is a minimum security prison or suitable establishment and the limitations in this case are smaller. In this case, prisoners remain in place only for sleeping and weekends, and are required to work or prove that he/she has conditions for going into the job market immediately after the progression.
The complex is designed for convicted male inmates convicted, that are not heads of gangs and feather meet in closed or semi-open regime for crimes that are not considered violent. The State Department of Social Defense, however, revealed no other details about the established profile. Each cell can hold four inmates in a closed or semi-open in six.
The city, which has 300,000 inhabitants, already houses four other prisons, totaling around six thousand prisoners. This number represents 12% of the entire prison population of Minas Gerais.
The Penitenciária Agrícola José Maria Alkmin is the city’s oldest, opening in 1938. Since then, prisoners and prisons haven’t stopped coming to the city. With the arrival of the complex, the number of prisoners is expected to reach 12,000, almost 30% of the state total.
Father Jose Geraldo is a resident of Ribeirão das Neves, and member of the Prison Ministry. Through his involvement with the topic and the city, he is a founder of Rede Nós Amamos Neves (We Love Neves Network). He says less than 7% of prisoners are from the city of Ribeirão das Neves. To him, with the coming of 3,040 more prisoners, it will significantly increase the number of residents in the city. “For the family to stay near the prisoner, they end up moving here, thus creating clusters and villages,” said the priest.
He says that in the last fifteen years the population has increased considerably. “The city here has greatly increased due to the housing shortage in Belo Horizonte. Around here there is still a lot of land, the price is cheaper and many come here to find a corner to live in and work in other nearby cities, such as Contagem, Betim and Belo Horizonte,” he explains.
Research conducted by the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (Pontifical Catholic University or PUC of Minas Gerais) states that the city of Ribeirão das Neves has one of the highest rates of population growth throughout the state of Minas Gerais, with the local population having quintupled between 1980 and 2007, according to data by Tarcísio Bruzzi de Andrade. From 67,249 inhabitants in 1980, Ribeirão das Neves had a total 329,112 residents in 2007. “We are not screaming against the jails, but against the impact it generates,” concluded the priest José Geraldo.
The Master Plan of the city was created only in 2006, demonstrating the lack of preparedness of the authorities to receive this population in search of dormitory and families who seek proximity to inmates.