- Title: BRAZIL/FILE: Brazilian prison decapitations spark furore
- Date: 9th January 2014
- Summary: VARIOUS CLOSE-UPS OF BRAZILIAN NEWSPAPER HEADLINES COVERING THE MARANHAO INCIDENT AND NATIONAL PRISON VIOLENCE
- Embargoed: 24th January 2014 12:00
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Crime
- Reuters ID: LVA6S2155OZKRK4BN610DN149256
- Story Text: An international outcry erupted this week after video surfaced showing the brutal decapitation of three prisoners incarcerated in a penitentiary located in Brazil's Maranhao state.
The video, said to have been filmed last December 17 and then posted on Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo's website this Tuesday (January 7), exhibited horrific scenes of violence which took place during a riot.
In the gruesome video that was reportedly recorded on a cell phone, inmates torture, murder and then behead their three fellow prisoners.
A prison workers union obtained the images and then handed them over to Folha de Sao Paulo.
The violent images set off a firestorm of criticism.
The United Nation's Office of the High Commission for Human Rights joined the campaign, urging the Brazilian government to investigate the killings which occurred in the Pedrinhas Penitentiary Complex located in northeastern Maranhao state.
The U.N. commission has also called on Brazilian authorities to take immediate action in attempting to stem prison violence and reduce overcrowding.
Alexandre Ciconello, a human rights advisor with Amnesty International in Rio de Janeiro said that Maranhao was not an isolated incident.
"The entire prison system in the country is today facing a dangerous situation. Not only in Maranhao. Maranhao is a grave example of what is happening, but in all states you have overcrowding, precarious conditions, rebellions and a system that does not resocialize those that were incarcerated," Ciconello said.
According to the Brazil's National Justice Council, known by the Portuguese acronym of CNJ, nearly 60 inmates have been killed in Pedrinhas since January 2013.
In an inspection performed by a local judge of the Pedrinhas prison late last December it was also discovered that female visitors were being raped by inmates of rival gangs.
Ciconello said intense overcrowding is at the heart of the violence in Brazil's penitentiaries.
"With 548,000 people incarcerated the system is only able to handle a little more than half of this. So, today we have a deficit of 229,000 places in the penitentiary system which provokes the overcrowding and leads to violence and a higher frequency of rebellions," Ciconello said.
Local media reports that officially Pedrinhas prison only has space for 1,700 inmates yet is currently home to 2,200.
While the video of the decapitations in Maranhao's Pedrinhas prison are horrific, prison violence, rioting, rebellion and even beheadings are not uncommon in Brazil's troubled penal system.
At least 218 homicides were committed in Brazil's prisons in 2013 according to Folha de Sao Paulo.
Penitentiaries like Rondonia state's Urso Branco prison and Rio de Janeiro's Bangu prison have also experienced violent uprisings and gang violence which then led to several inmate deaths.
According to Brazil's National Department of Penitentiaries, known by its Portuguese acronym of DEPEN, between 2009 and 2012 the number of individuals incarcerated rose by 60 percent.
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