By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian federal government announced on Wednesday that it would disburse R$1.2 billion for the construction of new prisons and the modernization of the Brazilian penal system. The investments, say officials, will help reduce the chronic overcrowding in Brazilian prisons.

Overcrowding at Brazilian prisons is all too common, photo by Agencia Brasil archives.

“The disbursement of these resources should allow measures and investments to be put in place as soon as possible, not only to modernize but also to humanize the conditions of the prison system in our country,” Alexandre Parola, President Temer’s spokesperson, stated during a press briefing.

According to Parola, this will be the “largest investment ever made in the penitentiary system in Brazil”. According to the spokesperson, R$799 million of the total amount will be earmarked for the construction of new penitentiaries with the objective of reducing the current overcrowding in prisons.

Officials admit there is currently a deficit of more than 249,000 vacancies in the Brazilian prison system. A study released by the Conselho Nacional do Ministerio Público (Public Prosecutors’ Office) on December 13th with regards to prison conditions in Brazil shows that ‘overcrowding is aggravated by the excessive number of temporary prisoners’.

According to the entity about forty percent of the total number of inmates in Brazilian prisons today are still awaiting trial, while the world’s average is around 25 percent. The study shows that in 2015 there were a little less than 400,000 places in public prisons for inmates, while there were a total of 566,819 men and women incarcerated in Brazilian prisons.

Another R$321 million is expected to be used in training personnel and the acquisition of new equipment, such as scanners that will replace the physical searches of the visitors at the prisons. In recent years, prison rebellions were aided in part by guns, cellular telephones and goods brought in by visitors.

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