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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The recent killings and mass escapes from inside Brazilian prisons has led Brazil’s Justice Minister, Alexandre de Moraes, to call for changes in the country’s incarceration laws, especially the number of inmates incarcerated by the State.

Brazil,Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes speaks to journalists in Brasilia
Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes speaks to journalists in Brasilia, photo by Wilson Dias AgBr.

“It’s an idea that I’ve had since I was Secretary of Public Security of São Paulo,” said the Justice Minister to a group of reporters on Tuesday. “(We have) to end a tradition in Brazil. Brazil historically incarcerates a great deal of people, but incarcerates them badly,” he added, noting that with the notorious problem of overcrowded Brazilian prisons, those who commit less serious crimes should be sentenced to community service. According to Moraes more than half of the people who are currently in prison have not committed serious crimes.

On the other hand, the official calls for stiffer punishment for those who committed violent crimes or are linked to criminal organizations. According to Moraes, the law today allows these convicted criminals to serve only one-sixth of their sentence in prison and then be transferred to a lighter regime. The government official says that these individuals should be required to serve at least half the sentence in a closed regime.

During the afternoon, Moraes met with the governor of Roraima, Suely Campos, who went to Brasilia to ask, among other things, for the federal government’s help in containing violence within its prison units. On Sunday, October 16th, ten inmates were killed during a riot in the prison located in the state capital, Boa Vista.

Although noting that prison security is a state issue, Moraes said he would send a team from the National Penitentiary Department (Depen) to assess the situation and help state security officials. He also said that he will send R$2.2 million worth in equipment, including weapons, helmets, bulletproof vests, X-ray machines and even vehicles used in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to states that are currently facing prison unrest.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Brazil has 630,000 prisoners, of which, forty percent have not committed violent crimes.

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