By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The federal government of Brazil announced on Tuesday (January 17th) it was authorizing the armed forces to help with the reinforcement of security inside prisons across the country.
In practical terms, the armed forces, before restricted to securing the area outside prison walls are now allowed to enter, search and inspect visitors and materials going into the penitentiaries.
The President of the Republic has determined that the Armed Forces participate more intensely in the National Security Plan,” said Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann on Tuesday.
“Personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force will be made available to those governors who want to count on the participation of the Armed Forces in the search, detection and removal of weapons, drugs, cell phones, in short, everything that is not allowed inside prisons,” concluded the government official.
According to Jungmann however the military will not have contact with the detainees during the inspections. The federal government has also offered states equipment such as as cell phone blockers, scanners and X-ray machines to conduct inspections.
Presidential spokesperson, Alexandre Parola, said although internal security of prisons remains the responsibility of the state governments, these may request that Armed Forces personnel help with routing inspections. “The recognized operational capability of our military is offered to governors for specific cooperation actions in penitentiaries,” said Parola, during a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
The federal government’s decision comes after the eruption of violence in several penitentiary units in the North and Northeastern states of Brazil. Since the beginning of the year there have been riots in the prisons in the states of Amazonas, Roraima and Rio Grande do Norte, which have caused at least 119 inmate deaths.