Brazil Supreme Court Issues Landmark Human Rights Ruling
The Brazilian Supreme court ruled that people accused of non-violent crimes are allowed to await trial under house arrest, rather than in detention centers. The decision applies to pregnant women, mothers of children up to 12 years of age and people with disabilities.
The decision was supported by the National Penitentiary Department. The agency believes the ruling will reduce prison overcrowding across Brazil.
Mara Fregapani, Coordinating General of the Promotion of National Citizenship, said that while there is no official calculation of how many women the new ruling will affect, the organization estimates it could benefit a maximum of 15,000 mothers.
According to a 2016 study released by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice, Brazil has 726,712 incarcerated (an inclusion of both convicted and those awaiting trial).
To put it in perspective, the ruling will affect only a small amount of the incarcerated population. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch has declared that “the ruling throws light on Brazil’s overuse of pretrial detention in violation of human rights law.”
The NGO adds that in recent years Brazil has been accused of “overusing pretrial detention” and describes a “chronic problem of arbitrary and illegal application of pretrial detention in the region.”
While the decision will not affect the male incarceration rate, officials hope that this will alleviate overcrowding in women’s prisons.
The Supreme Court ruling recognizes the “situation of the female prison,” as many Brazilian women and children face deplorable prison conditions.
A 2014 study by the Ministry of Justice revealed that many Brazilian prison systems have minimal to non-existent pre and postnatal services for women.
The measure has raised some criticism, namely from Leandro Allan Vieira, President of FEBRASP (Federation of Penitentiary Servants). Allan Vieira stated that “women could be used by criminal enterprises to commit crimes while on house arrest including: “carrying weapons and drugs into the jails.”
Fregapani disputes Allan Vieira’s claim. She points to other countries such as Italy and Argentina who have adopted similar measures. “The positive or negative consequences of this action will only really recognize us in the future. But it seems to me from experience in other countries that this is not a situation that can happen."