Brazil Bishops Urges Reforms in Penal System

Panel Responds in Wake of Prison Riots

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BRASILIA, Brazil, FEB. 28, 2001 ( A commission of bishops has called for reforms in the judicial and rehabilitation system after widespread prison riots in the state of São Paolo left 19 dead.

With the motto, “Christ is the Liberty of All Prisoners,” the bishops´ Commission for the Pastoral Care of Prisoners published a note to address the difficult situation in Brazilian prisons.

Riots had spread to 29 prison centers in 19 cities, following the authorities´ decision to transfer a number of inmates to other prisons. The riots, which were worst in São Paulo´s Carandiru prison, resulted in the death of 19 people and the freeing of 5,000 hostages, including prison officials, policemen and prisoners´ relatives, held by the inmates.

The bishops´ commission published its note to “encourage that the human person of prisoners and their relatives be placed at the center of an educational endeavor leading to their full reintegration in society.”

The bishops also advocate greater efficiency in the judicial processes regarding prisoners on remand, the study of alternatives to imprisonment, the establishment of smaller penitential premises, and the creation of work opportunities for inmates, including basic training and professional guidance. They also urged physical, psychological and spiritual care.

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