Hi, Michael and other colleagues,
In Brazil there´s a chronic overcrowding inside the prisons, with more than 800.000 prisoners and a deficit of vacancies that exceeds 300.000. Besides the prisoners, there are more than 100.000 agents and other employees of detention facilities, who will be in risk of getting sick and will probably spread the virus inside and outside the prisons.
To face this reality, Institute for Defense of the Right to Defense (IDDD) has taken the following initiatives:
• On March 16th, we filed a petition at the Supreme Court in case of Action for Noncompliance with Fundamental Precept (ADPF) n°. 347/2015, in order to reduce the prison population, requiring the adoption of alternative penalties and precautionary measures for groups at risk (elderly, HIV positive, diabetics, people with tuberculosis, cancer, among other diseases susceptible to worsening from contagion by COVID-19); lactating and pregnant women; people arrested for crimes committed without violence or threats and progression of punishment for those who already live or are in the semi-open regime (attached).
• We submitted an expert opinion at the supreme court by the infectologist Marcos Boulos, Professor of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases at USP School of Medicine and Special Advisor on Infectious and Parasitic Diseases of the São Paulo State Department of Health, in which he answered questions about the effects of a pandemic may have in the prison system (attached).
• It must be highlighted that IDDD had already been qualified as amicus curiae in ADPF mentioned, which in 2015 recognized the unconstitutional state of affairs in Brazilian prison system, due to human rights violations and a degrading conditions.
• Supreme Court´s minister – ADPF´s rapporteur concluded that the judges, for both Federal and Regional Courts should adopt the measures proposed by IDDD. However, on March 17, Supreme Court voted (6 votes to 2) to overturn the decision
• We developed letters to Courts of Justice, Attorneys Office and Executive Bodies responsible for the prison system (Secretaries of Penitentiary Administration, Secretaries of Justice and Public Security Secretaries), of all Brazilian states, requesting actions and urgent measures to be taken, in order to contain the spread of the new coronavirus in prison units. This initiative was led by IDDD in partnership with the Criminal Justice Network and other local partners from different states, who also signed the document.
• We also suggested to the leadership of the Socialism and Freedom Party to present an exceptional bill in order to, during this COVID-19 epidemic crisis, try to avoid pretrial detention and also try to release inmates that are serving time. This initiative is a powerful action to reduce incarceration of people in risk groups, women and those accused of non-violent crimes. This bill includes the requests we made before STF and admissions of the socio-educational and was written with contributions from several partners.
We are beginning a prison task force with our associated lawyers in order to file petitions to the Court for the adoption of precautionary measures for pretrial detainees that belongs to risk groups. We have 80 lawyers participating in this effort.