Brazilian prisons are notorious for their overcrowding, corruption, voilence and torture. For many years Human Rights groups have cited overcrowding as being the cause of many of the brutal riots in Brazillian prisons and report that it has now reached 'inhuman levels'.

Medical care for detainees, including those with terminal illness or severe disability, is generally inadequate or non-existent. HIV is reported to effect as many as 1 in ever 7 prisoners, with many more being infected with other sexually transmitted and/or bad hygene related diseases.

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), near- asphyxiation and electric shocks.

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.

There are reported to be anywhere between 250 and 922 prison establishments of all types in Brazil depending on where you get your statistics. Often local jails are used to house long-term prisoners with some police lock-ups holding more than 150 prisoners (thus they may be counted as prisons in some statistics reports, and perhaps this explains the sizable difference in reports of numbers of prisons).

According to a 1995 prison census, there were 148,760 inmates crammed into a space meant for 65,000. Tens of thousands of prisoners are held for months and even years in police precincts, which are not equipped for stays longer than a few weeks. In some cases, prisoners share the same bed by sleeping in shifts.

The same 1995 prison census shows that nearly 45 percent of prisoners have not been sentenced, and poor recordkeeping means many are incarcerated beyond their terms. Rights groups point to a São Paulo man who 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 Sa Paulo prison system has long been in a state of severe crisis. 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.

Note: This list is incomplete, we are currently researching other prisons in Brazil.
Carandiru Prison
Carandiru prison houses both male & female prisoners and is one of Brazil's most notorious prisons. Overcrowding, torture, lack of propper food & medical care are the norm in this terrible place. The site of regular riots (one of which saw the massacre of 111 prisoners in 1992) Carandiru has a reputation for voilence. It was reported in 1998 to be holding more than 8,000 prisoners, despite being built to accommodate only 3,500 and that fellow prisoners were responsible for more than 80% of deaths of prisoners in custody.

It says that in densely packed cells and dormitories, some prisoners are tied to windows to lessen the demand for floor space. Others are forced to sleep on top of hole-in- the-floor toilets.

Men's penitentiary in Manaus
Inmates in the Céu Azul wing of the men's penitentiary in Manaus have complained to Amnesty that the prison administration was using certain inmates to beat and punish others.

More information as it becomes available.

Sorocaba prison
Sorocaba prison 50 miles west of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo was reported in 1998 to have a capacity for 500 prisoners, but was housing more than 900 inmates

In 1989, 18 prisoners suffocated at a precinct after police locked 51 inmates for three hours into a windowless cell that measured 5 by 10 feet.

Urso Branco prison
The Urso Branco, or White Bear, prison in state capital of Porto Velho in the Amazon state of Rondonia was built for 360 inmates but houses more than 1,000.The prison was the scene of one of the most violent riots in recent years. A total of 27 inmates died in early 2002 in clashes between rival gangs after a failed escape attempt. 9 inmates were killed and scores of visitors were held hostage in April 2004 after yet another riot sparked by overcrowding and demands that the prison direfctor step down.
The Pirajui Penitentiary
The Pirajui Penitentiary 340 kilometres (210 miles) north-west of Sao Paulo, which holds more than 800 prisoners, is another regular site of prisoner riots.

In 2001 massive riots exploded at 29 jails across the state, in which up to 6,000 people, most of them visitors at the jails, were seized by inmates. Riots have been caused by corruption, lack of facilities and very poor conditions.

Braganca Prison
In 1993, in an effort to rescue the Braganca prison from a corrupt and violence-ridden environment, a local judge proposed a plan to form a nonprofit corporation to turn the prison into a more humane, clean, and self- sustaining facility. The result has been a public-private partnership where local companies contract with the prison for prison labor, with the inmates paying part of their wages into the coffers of the non- profit corporation. Impressed with the effi- ciency and improved conditions, as well as the belief that recidivism had been reduced at Braganca, the government has recently reported that the Braganca facility will be a model for massive penitentiary expansion in Brazil.
Bangu Prison
Talavera Bruce Women's Penitentiary in Bangu

This prison houses prisoners from South Africa, Cuba, France, and other countries and includes a prison day care center, where recent mothers live with their newborns until they reach 6 months. Like other prisons in Brazil it suffers from overcrowding and insufficient facilities. "We've got 23 babies here, and only space for 12," explained prison director Marcus Pinheiro. Recent visitors from a Human rights group were upset by the general conditions within the prison, and in particular the lack of basic hygienic products such as toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and diapers for the newborns. At Bangu, prisoners must purchase these products from the cantina, using money brought to them by visitors or borrowed from other prisoners. "This is ridiculous. It is unfair and unhealthy for the government to put 430 women in a prison and not provide them with sanitary napkins," said Bert Muhly, former mayor of Santa Cruz, California. Bert was also troubled by the lack of activities and educational resources for the majority of the prisoners. "They have nothing to do.

Linhares prison
The site of a 13 hour prison rebellion which started in the Linhares prison in the State of Espirito Santo on January 1998 left eight prisoners dead and one seriously injured. Approximately 50 prisoners armed with iron bars and knives invaded another wing of the prison which held almost 100 prisoners at the beginning of the rebellion. Police and government spokes-persons claim that the invasion formed part of a struggle for control between different factions of prisoners. Seven of the prisoners killed in the incident were thrown from the prison roof with their feet and hands bound.
Other Known Prisons in Brazil
  • Franco da Rocha prison
  • Belem jail.
  • Paulo Sarasate jail
  • Taubate prison
  • Joao Pessoa Prison
  • Central Prison of Porto Alegre
  • Mirandopolis prison
  • Parque Sao Lucas police station
  • Agua Santa jail
  • Ary Franco Prison
  • Aracatuba prison
  • Roger prison
  • WHO TO CONTACT [South African Prisoners]
    How best can people support South African prisoners detained in Brazil prisons? Write letters of encouragement, funds can be sent to Fosada [Friends/Family of South Africans Detained Abroad] who will arrange for a missionary in Brazil to get necessities to the prisoners. Fosada Website

    South African Prisoners detained in:

      Presidio Adriano Marrey Rod.
      Pres Dutra KM13, Parquececap,
      Guarulhos, S.P. 07034-900 Brazil

      Rogerio Paulo Guerra Albasini
      Travis Bezuidenhout
      Tadeus Borowicz, Passed away 26/03/2005, incarcerated 2004
      Martin David Boshoff
      Charles Carrington
      Cristovao Moreira Da Silva Porto
      Alan Davis-Smith, born 14/06/1948
      Michael John Honiball, born 28/5/1961 News received Feb 2008 that Michael has been released!
      George Josuf Jacobs, born 4/9/1971
      Gary Johannsen, incarcerated 2004
      Johannes David Kruger, born 02/10/1957, incarcerated 24/04/2004
      Victor John Leslie , born 25/03/1952
      John Michael Meilhon
      Johannes Cloete Nel born 7/3/1960
      Christiaan Jacob Odendaal born 13/10/1961
      Marius Oosthuizen
      Johannes Hendrik Rall, born 31/8/1945
      James Jacobus Joseph Rudoph, born 15/07/1975, incarcerated 27/07/2003
      Rudolph Edward Stewart, born 09/06/1980
      Johannes Albertus Steyn
      Arnold Van der Mescht, born 23/08/1966
      Ernest Van Heerden
      Roy Barendse
      Carl Paul Barry
      Imram Dawood Dhoda
      Johannes du Plessis
      Rodney Ronald Engel
      Nicolaas Hoffman
      Mark Vernon Hope
      Jaques Le Rous le Grange
      Gary Wayne van Jaarsveldt
      Leonardo Gerhardus Vergottini
      John Frikkie Viljoen
  • Brazil Ministry of Justice
  • Carandiru Inside Latin America's worst prison
  • Carandiru Prison Riot images (warning extreme)
  • Human Rights Developments in Brazil Prisons
  • Behind Bars in Brazil - In a country as large as Brazil, the issue of prisoners' distance from their families must be considered. If family members have to travel long distances to visit their incarcerated kin, then visits are likely to be infrequent.
  • PHOTO ESSAY ­ WOMEN INMATES - For a look inside the Brazil jails and the conditions women are subject to.
    Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights
    All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff
    All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff