Brazil's Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, and the president
of the National Crime and Prison Policy Council, Antônio Cláudio
Mariz de Oliveira, called for greater use of alternative punishments in Brazil
in place of prison sentences. According to them, alternative sentences are
much less expensive for society.
"The cure to the
situation of our prisons is not simply more money," Bastos said. He stated
that the number of inmates has risen from 114 thousand in 1992 to 300 thousand
The Minister informed
that the annual sum allotted to prison expenses is US$ 330,000 (1 million
reais), transferred to the states through the Prison Fund (Funpen).
Bastos said, however,
that it is not possible to eliminate the deficit in prison vacancies, even
if the entire amount were used to build new cells.
In the Minister's view,
the Judiciary could increase the number of alternative sentences assigned
to offenders. At the same time, criminal penalty courts could speed up the
release of prisoners who have already served their sentences or have done
part of their time and are judged capable of performing alternative services
Bastos and Mariz took
part in the opening of the joint meeting of the National Crime and Prison
Policy Council and the National Council of Secretaries of Justice, Citizenship,
and Prison Administration.
Work in Prison
The Ministry of Sports'
Path to Freedom ("Painting Freedom") Program, created in October,
1997, brings new hope and opportunity to individuals serving time in Brazilian
The idea is to resocialize
inmates through professional training. The new trade involves the production
of sporting goods. Balls, bags, uniforms, caps, and warm-up suits are manufactured
at the 62 factories that have been installed so far.
On August 9, Brazilian
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the Minister of Sports, Agnelo
Queiroz, went to Feira de Santana, in the state of Bahia, to inaugurate the
expansion of the Juvenile Farm, one of the 62 units in the program.
According to the Minister,
220 thousand pieces, among T-shirts, bermudas, shorts, and warm-up suits,
will be produced at the Farm in the next six months.
A total of 12.7 thousand
inmates participate in the program in all of Brazil. They receive payment
to help their families or deposit in savings accounts, as well as reducing
their sentences by one day for each three days they work.
The material they produce
is used by the federal government in its social projects, such as the Second
Half Program, also run by the Ministry of Sports, to promote the social inclusion
of fundamental and secondary school students in areas of social risk.
This can be achieved through
the practice of sports during the half of the day when they are not attending
classes. The partnership also makes it possible to alleviate another problem:
the lack of sports equipment in public schools.
On August 1, 850 balls
and 20 Brazilian flags were sent to Haiti. This material is used by the Brazilian
Peace Force that is stationed there. The soldiers have gotten street children
involved in various social projects, among them the practice of sports.
"It is a way to calm
and ease the population," affirms the coordinator of the Path to Freedom,
Gerencio Nelcyr do Bem. 890 balls had already been sent to Haiti in April.
Stefan Barth works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.