Carandiru Trial Highlights Brazil Prison Overcrowding

To mark the start of the trial, students at the University of São Paulo give a poignant reminder of the number of prisoners killed in the massacre, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

To mark the start of the trial, São Paulo University (USP) students give a poignant reminder of the 111 prisoners killed in the massacre, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

Over twenty years after the infamous massacre in São Paulo’s Carandiru prison, in which a police operation to quell a riot left over a hundred prisoners dead, the first of 79 officers are to be put on trial for their involvement.

The trial of 26 officers over the murder of fifteen inmates will now begin on 15 April, after it was adjourned following complications with a jury member.

On 2 October 1992, officers were sent into Carandiru prison to stop a riot that had broken out after a fight between rival gangs escalated; the ensuing carnage left at least 111 prisoners dead, most of which were shot dead by police, many at point-blank range.

The new case will be held in at least four stages, and if found guilty, those accused could face between twelve and thirty years’ imprisonment.

O Globo newspaper drew attention to the fact that at least eight of the first 26 defendants are still on active police service, and many others have continued high-ranking civil servant careers.

To date the only person to face trial over the massacre was Colonel Ubiratan Guimarães, who led the operation; he was subsequently killed in what was officially recorded as an unrelated attack.

The rise of the First Command of the Capital, or PCC – a major criminal group operating inside São Paulo’s prisons, which was recently linked to revenge killings on police officers, supposedly in retaliation for the murder of PCC members – has been linked directly to events at Carandiru.

Chronic overcrowding was identified as one of the main contributing factors to the grisly death toll at Carandiru: the 3,500-capacity facility – Latin America’s biggest at the time – was reportedly housing between 7,000 and 10,000 inmates at the time of the massacre.

The case was not taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which labelled officers’ actions as “brutal and savage,” on the condition that prison overcrowding be reduced.

Yet just days before the new trial, Agência Estado news agency reported that the São Paulo prison population had exceeded 200,000 – more than double the total in 2001 – and that a third of prisons in the state were now even more overcrowded than Carandiru was in 1992.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

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