According to data collected by the National Council of Justice (CNJ) of Brazil, rates of coronavirus infection in Brazilian prisons increased by 800% between May and June 2020, and death rates doubled.
The bishops have criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CNJ recommended allowing prisoners suspected of having or diagnosed with COVID-19 to be placed under house arrest rather than remaining in a crowded prison.
Torture and violence in Brazilian prisons is not a new phenomenon.
In Oct. 2019, a federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of Pará issued a report stating that members of a security task force had been torturing prisoners by way of “beatings with brooms, daily attacks with rubber bullets and pepper spray, impalement of the anus, and the piercing of feet with nails, among other atrocities,” the Brazilian newspaper El País reported.
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President Bolsonaro reportedly rejected the report’s contents.
Brazil's prisons have long been overcrowded, underfunded, and overwhelmed by gang warfare. According to Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo, 372 inmates were killed inside the nation's prisons in 2016.
Gang-related riots at prisons in northern Brazil killed nearly 100 inmates in early 2017, the deadliest prison riot since 1992.