By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The deaths of inmates in Rio de Janeiro state due to diseases acquired during incarceration, increased by 114 percent between 2010 and 2017, according to a survey conducted by the Mechanism for Prevention and Combat of Torture, entity linked to the state’s Legislative Assembly (Alerj).

Brazil,Overcrowded conditions in prisons in Brazil are notorious,
Overcrowded conditions in prisons in Brazil are notorious, photo by Antonio Cruz/Agencia Brasil.

“We are talking only of those who died within the prison system, there are those who die later because they have been debilitated, there are those who leave with their lungs practically not working, and most of these deaths could be avoided,” one of the study’s authors, Alexandre Campbell, was quoted by government news agency, Agencia Brasil, as saying.

“They are not violent deaths, they (inmates) are dying as a result of simple health problems, which deteriorate,” adds Campbell.

At the beginning of April alone, three inmates died after contracting meningitis while in jail. And while the state’s Penitentiary Administration (Seap), states that the cases of meningitis have already been controlled, the study, however, says that there is a ‘collapse’ in tuberculosis control, the obstetric violence before and during childbirth and an absence of custody hearings for hospitalized inmates.

According to report, presented last week during a public hearing by Alerj’s Human Rights Commission, there is a ‘chain of institutional decisions’ that end up not guaranteeing adequate health care for prisoners.

Since 2007, eighteen public civil actions suits have been filed claiming health rights violations in Rio state prison units. In one civil suit, an investigation carried out on 83 deaths which occurred between April 2014 and April 2015, found that 64 percent of them were due to tuberculosis, pneumonia and pulmonary sepsis. Of the total of these deaths, 57.8 percent of the inmates were under 40 years.

According to Seap however, Rio’s prison health system, once nationally recognized as excellent, has suffered with a lack of funding and the rapid increase of inmate population.

“Unfortunately, the prison population increased threefold while the technical staff has been reduced by one third,” said Nice Carvalho, Seap’s prison management health coordinator, according to Agencia Brasil.

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