Two riots in five days. 89 deaths. Those numbers expose the failures of Brazil’s penitentiary system. Since the riots broke in northern Brazil, the federal government has blamed state governments and companies running the prisons. That is, everyone but the current administration. It turns out, however, that the Roraima prison – where 33 men died on Friday – asked for an intervention back in November.
The request was filed by Roraima Governor Maria Suely Campos. In two documents, she alerted the Ministry of Justice of the rising tension among criminal gangs. Campos requested the donation of 180 pistols for prison officers. She also asked for the National Security Force to act inside the facilities.
In response, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said that the National Force was undergoing a training program. “Although I recognize the importance of your request, it will be impossible to grant it,” he replied in a document. In a press conference, Moraes tried to explain his decision. He said that the governor wanted the National Force to perform police duties. According to the minister, it had nothing to do with Roraima’s prison crisis.
Friday’s massacre was the third-bloodiest in Brazilian history, trailing behind Carandiru (1992), and Sunday’s Amazonas prison riot.
Campos’ request came after an October prison riot that killed 10 prisoners. At the time, a conflict erupted during visiting hours. Prisoners held about 100 relatives of inmates as hostages. All of them were released unharmed.
Roraima’s Agricultural Penitentiary of Monte Cristo houses roughly 1,400 inmates – nearly double its actual capacity.
National Security Plan
Today, Alexandre de Moraes announced a new federal security plan. The federal government promised to invest $562 million (1.8 billion BRL) in the prison system over the next semester. Another $250 million will go towards building at least one new prison per state. However, the construction of new prisons will only address 0.4 percent of the necessary prison space. In fact, with 622,200 prisoners for 371,900 prison spots, Brazil needs to create facilities for 250,300 more prisoners.
A part of Temer’s National Security Plan, his administration will dedicate $46.8 million to installing cellphone blocks on 30 percent of prisons. Another $25 million will go to general prison security improvements.
While states maintain sovereignty over their own public security, Temer emphasized that their needs exceed current resources.