Over 140 prisoners have been killed in 6 different prison riots in Brazil during the last 4 months. This is not the first time that violence has called attention to the deplorable conditions of Brazil’s prisons on a global scale. While this particular wave of riots has its root in a recent fallout between two drug gangs, they are indications of far deeper structural problems within Brazil’s prison system itself, which have been present for decades.
The camera follows a man’s feet as he walks across a prison courtyard. His surroundings cannot be seen, nor can the faces of those present at the scene. The viewer sees only feet and small pools of water on a cement floor, until a pool of blood emerges at the top of the frame.
In La Paz, Bolivia there is a prison unlike any other. It is home to thieves, tax evaders, drug traffickers, rapists, and murderers alike, as well as their families. It is unique because it is largely unguarded (about 50 guards are employed to stand watch on the outside) and because it is completely community run. San Pedro is the topic of much controversy. Questions such as “Why should criminals be allowed to govern themselves and roam freely,?” as well as “Why should children live with these men?” arise.
Much like the United States, Brazil has a mass incarceration problem. The country’s prison population is the fourth largest in the world, its incarceration rate is the highest in South America, the occupancy level in its prison system is at 154 percent, and almost forty percent of all prisoners are still awaiting trial. These numbers have consistently worsened since the country’s transition to electoral democracy in 1989, and represent one of the biggest barriers for the establishment of a liberal political order in the country.
At the end of November, a riot resulting in 17 fatalities broke out in a prison in Escuintla, Guatemala.1 The cause of the violence is unknown, but Guatemala’s Deputy Interior Minister Elmer Sosa has said that some of the inmates possessed guns and has stated that possible causes include a conflict between known gang members and other prisoners and a thwarted escape effort.2 Sadly, this violence is not an isolated incident but rather another example of effects