Look into a Brazilian Jail

December 5, 2009 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

Check out this blog post from Jay Bauman

Rio de paz
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” – Hebrews 13:3

Last weekend I had the unique opportunity to again go inside a Brazilian jail. Words can not express the experience, but i will try.

Rio de Paz, our sister organization here in Rio de Janeiro, has been working in this jail for a couple of months. But this particular weekend only myself and a handful of people were there, and what happened was shocking. The heat was unbearable in the jail. It was a very hot day in Rio, and inside the prison it was at least 90 degrees farenheit. In these jail cells are 60 men, in cells designed for 14 men. Most of the guys were sweating like crazy and some were fainting. We saw one men urinating on himself because of the intense heat. The men who fainted, if they were lucky, were taken into a “care” area which was basically a room with a concrete floor.

At the same time, the concept of rehabilitation appears to be entirely foreign to the Brazilian system. Nothing I saw would ever cause a man in this jail to change his ways, apart from an exceptional encounter with the living God. To be sure, some of these men are very, very dangerous (a couple probably even serial killers), but others were simply arrested for carrying a few marijuana seeds. Some in the jail were even framed because of the power of the rival drug gangs in Rio. It’s hard to describe how the system works but basically, the gangs oftentimes have more power than the police, and even the justice system.

You will see in the “rehabilitation” segment of the video, that they had a funk music band come in and play, I guess to help alleviate the guys stress. At one point one of the prisoners did not like that I was taping and so he abruptly tried to put an end to that.

What’s strange is that in this jail, the prisoners run key aspects of it. Several of them (certainly a minority) who are friends with police have the capacity to walk around freely in unsecured areas, while the majority of the prisoners are locked up like animals in these cells. Basically if you have money, or white enough skin (generally speaking) or are involved in white-collar crime, there is a totally different area for you, if you have to go to jail at all. It may be simplistic to say, but this type of jail does nothing except dehumanize someone and probably make them a total terror to society once they get out.

While any of us who have personally experienced the crimes that some of these men committed could possibly justifiably say – “They deserve this, and more” – the problem is not so much a lack of justice, as it is a lack of a solution. When human rights are violated to the extreme degree, the conscience of a society, and a culture, is completely corrupted. When men are treated as animals, they will leave the system in the same way they have been treated. And we see this on the city streets of Rio de Janeiro.

In this case Brazil, whom wants to move from a third-world to a first-world country, has much work to do. President Lula, at times appearing bordering on arrogant, may need a reality check. With the recent win of the Olympics and an economy largely propped up by foreign investment (whom he takes credit for getting the country “out of the recession”), he has some serious work to do in confronting issues of human rights.

I love Brazil about as much as any American. But I can not do anything except to expose the truth, so that the international community sees injustice and responds.

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Favela walls?

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