Klaus Hart Brasilientexte

Aktuelle Berichte aus Brasilien – Politik, Kultur und Naturschutz

„Death is preferable to being in prison“ – wie Lulas einstiger Präsidentenberater Frei Betto die Lage in den Gefängnissen unter der Lula-Rousseff-Regierung analysiert. Lula ist Redner des IG-Metall-Kongresses in Berlin 2012 – der Lula-Propaganda-Spielfilm.

 Das Lula-Institut: http://www.institutolula.org/



Frei Betto*

The above phrase was spoken by Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo on 13th November 2012. He knows what he is talking about. Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world, after the US, China and Russia.

Our jails nowadays hold 515,000 prisoners in 1312 penal institutions with a capacity for 306,500 detainees. If the Brazilian judiciary system were less slow and more humanitarian, 36,000 detainees could have been freed or benefited by reprieves.

Penal Law assures each prisoner six square metres of space in a cell. Today the majority squeeze in to between 70cm and one square metre. Hence frequent rebellions.


Brazil lacks a penal policy and social re-integration programme for those in jail. Due to urban violence, many naively clamour for more jails. Due to popular pressure, both federal and state governments invest funds into prisons which should really go towards schools.

Our jails are real Swiss cheeses, full of holes. Convicts use mobile phones from within their cells to extort the gullible (hoax re kidnapped family members) and to command organised crime. They use cocaine, cannabis and crack and are allowed  alcoholic drinks.

Is privatising jails a solution? Yes, it makes businessmen rich. The US system is already in force in the states of Pernambuco, Amazonas, Bahia, Ceara, Espirito Santo and Santa Catarina. The company which owns the jail charges the State for what it spends, on average, for each detainee: R$1500.00. Plus R$1000 per head. A total of R$2500.00 per prisoner. Now, the longer the prisoner remains inside, the higher the profit. With no worry about social re-integration.

Our jails are destroyed and abandoned. According to the LOA (Yearly Budget Law) they should have received R$277.5 million from the federal government this year. They were awarded only R$ 2,579,776.61 – less than 1% of the required amount!

The state of Piaui is the only state with no over crowding in prisons. In the rest of the country convicts are confined to meagre and promiscuous space with no access to sports, artistic, schooling or training activities.

What can be done about the lack of vacant places in our penal institutions? Adopt the death penalty? Increase the number of jails?

I was imprisoned for four years (1969-73). Two were amongst Sao Paulo common prisoners in the State Penitentiary of Carandiru and in the Maximum Security Prison in Presidente Venseslau.

In the latter, where I remained for more than a year, it was possible to recuperate some inmates through bible groups, theatre, drawing and painting and, particularly, by the installation of a supplementary high school course which interested 80 of the 400 prisoners.

During the two years that I worked in the Lula government (2003-04), I tried to stress the urgency for reform in our penal system. All in vain.

Police stations and establishments for holding minors function as elementary school for crime. Jails as high school. Penitentiaries as university.

How can it be that the Sate cannot manage something as simple as stopping mobile phones from entering jails? Does anyone manage to pass through airport controls with hidden mobiles? Here, yes, we must imitate the US where detainees use public phones to communicate with their families and all calls are tapped.

Our police force is in general unprepared to the point where human rights are thought to signify freedom for criminals; some jailers find it hard to resist corruption and treat prisoners as enemies not as persons to be educated and the prison system does not consider the re-insertion of convicts back into society as citizens.

Education is the solution both in and out of prisons. How to avoid criminality if 5.3 million Brazilian youths between 18 and 25 years are not in school and unemployed?

Our penitentiaries could function as training schools. Courses in mechanics, tailoring, computers and cooking associated with learning languages and dedication to sporting and artistic activities (theatre, music, literature), would certainly empty our jails. Progress in the course would lessen the prison term.

If neither the State nor society care for our prisoners, they themselves will try and seek what is best for them: self organisation in groups, networks of informers between jailers and police, links with factions which are free. And we, citizens, will pay by sustaining a system which does not work and by being victims of the recurring spiral of violence.

*Frei Betto is a writer, author of de “Diário de Fernando – nos cárceres da ditadura militar brasileira” (Fernando’s Diary – in the jails of the Brazilian military dictatorship) (Rocco).

http://www.freibetto.org/>  twitter: @freibetto


He is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian.
Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 56 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil’s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers’ Union.

Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church’s ministry to workers in São Paulo’s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST).

Frei Betto und die Drogenproblematik:  There is a basic question needing to be deeply dealt with by all those who are interested in the problem: why does a person use drugs? What motivates him/her to seek to alter his/her normal state of consciousness? Why does he/she only experience happiness through drug use?

Drugs are a false substitute for someone who carries a hole in their being. This hole is the result of non love and of frequent frustrations in such an egocentric and competitive society.

A culture which boasts of having closed the horizon to utopias and “other possible worlds”, to libertarian ideologies and to the dream that “from now on, everything could be different”, fences people in, particularly the young, with very mediocre ambitions: wealth, fame and beauty.

As Jesus said “for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt. 6:21). Many who are not lucky enough to see their dream come true, know how to make it virtual… and even if they are not aware of it, they are crying at the top of their lungs that at least one thing is for sure: happiness is found in subjectivity.


Frei Betto*

Something bothers me: the “denominationalism” of politics. During the election of Dilma Rousseff as president, the subject of religion was more relevant than government programmes. In the recent election for mayor of Sao Paulo, pastors and bishops conflicted and Father Marcelo Rossi became a political icon.

Modernity separated Church and State. The state is now secular. Therefore it cannot be guided by a particular religious belief. All have a right to spread their message and promote public demonstrations, as long as they respect those who believe or think differently.

The State should be at the service of all citizens, believers or otherwise, without being manipulated by this Church or that religious denomination.

The West’s past proves that mixing religious power and political power enforces fundamentalism and thus, in troubled waters, prejudice, discrimination and even exclusion (Inquisition, “heresies” etc.) as well. Even today, in the Middle East, prioritising religious doctrine in certain countries produces obscurantist policies.

I fear that the serpent’s egg is also being hatched in Brazil. Religious denominations appoint their pastors for political positions, religious lobbies are formed in legislative assemblies, the faithful are mobilised according to the back and forth struggle between good and evil, Churches identify with political parties and religious proselytism takes up much space the media.

Is something dangerous not being born? The class struggle and its ideological profile are no longer important. Nor is fidelity to the party programme. What matters is belief, fidelity to a determined doctrine or to religious leaders, “voluntary dependence” on the faith that moves hearts and minds.

What would become of a Brazil whose National Congress was dominated by legislators who would approve laws, not for the benefit of the whole population, but in order to include all under the shield of a confessional doctrine, whether they have faith in that doctrine or not?

We know that no law can force a citizen to embrace a religious principle like that. But the law can oblige him or her to submit to a system which is against reason and science, and only makes sense in light of a religious principle, such as forbidding blood transfusions or the use of preservatives.
Let us not be deluded: history does not follow a linear movement. At times, it retreats. And that which was will still be if we are not able to believe that love – which knows no bounds and “endures all things” as Paul the apostle says – must always prevail over faith.

*Frei Betto is a writer and author, together with Marcelo Gleiser, of  “Conversa sobre a fé e ciência” (Conversation on faith and science) (Agir). 

Lula-Film:  http://www.hart-brasilientexte.de/2010/09/23/brasilien-schickt-lula-propaganda-spielfilm-ins-rennen-um-oscar-auszeichnung-als-bester-auslandischer-film/



Dieser Beitrag wurde am Dienstag, 04. Dezember 2012 um 12:40 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Kultur, Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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