Brazilian prison riot kills seven

In a protest against inmate transfers to another prison, prisoners at the Jundai Jail in Sao Paolo state broke into a riot on Wednesday, taking police and prison guards hostage, and starting fires that eventually suffocated seven people to death within the walls. The rioting allegedly broke out after guards found an escape tunnell dug by inmates

This was the sixth riot in the entire state that week. The Jundai prison, like most prisons in Sao Paolo, is overcrowded. With a 120 inmate capacity serving 470, riots against prison conditions and poor supervision and security measures, while not excusable, are understandable. Rioters demanded that the population of the prison be reduced.

On Thursday rioters surrendered after releasing 3 hostages, but there was no word on whether their demands were met.

It is well known that Brazilian prisons are rife with diseases, especially tuberculosis, Hepatitis C, and HIV. In 2004 a prison riot in Brazil's Urso Branco jail, sparked by rival gang violence and protests against poor living conditions, left 9 people dead. One victim was decapitated and his head was thrown off the prion's roof into the yard, while another inmate was hacked to death and distributed in pieces throughout the prison. In a gross display of negligence and disregard for minimum standards of protection, the Urso Branco Jail was housing over 1300 inmates in a capacity of only 350.

In 1985, so-called "Death-lottery" killings became popular in Brazilian prisons. The death-lottery involves drawing random lots of inmates from the prison population, and then selecting one to be murdered, usually by hanging or strangling, as a public form of protest against squalid prison conditions. Frequently, rapists and sexual offenders are the targets of such slayings. In 1990, Marcelo di Pietro, 27, a convicted rapist and murderer, was the unfortunate strangling victim of one such lottery in Santo Andre industrial centre; ironically, he had been living in a 6-person cell with 46 other inmates. The Santa Andre jail itself was housing over 365 inmates in a capacity of only 96. At the time, Brazil's total prison population was hovering above 87,000, with a total national capacity of 41,000.

Violence, torture, beatings, inmate assaults, inmate rapes, overcrowding, foul food, lack of medical care, and structural delays have all been cited in Brazil's prison system. but especially Sao Paulo state, where death-lottery killings are not limited to one prison, but could happen at any one at any time.

In 1985, a further 13 inmates were murdered in a death-lottery in a Belo Horizonte jail. Many prisoners at the jail are in constant fear for their lives, sleeping only two or three hours a night.


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