SAO PAULO – Brazil’s justice minister reiterated Tuesday the government’s rejection of the proposal to reduce from 18 to 16 years the age of criminal responsibility, arguing that the country’s prisons are “the true crime school.”
“A good part of the violence we have in our society is ordered from within the prisons. We know this, and we’re going to place children and teenagers inside the prisons to be captured by those criminal organizations?” Jose Eduardo Cardozo asked rhetorically.
Cardozo participated on Tuesday in a hearing of the congressional Human Rights and Minorities Committee, which is discussing alternatives to reducing the age of criminal responsibility, a matter lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha says will be voted on later this month.
As an alternative to reducing the age of criminal responsibility, the minister defended increasing the confinement time for teenagers who commit serious crimes, as well as doubling the sentences for adults who induce minors to commit crimes.
He noted that the Brazilian prison system has a deficit of 300,000 beds, adding that – in his judgment – the prisons are in no condition to receive “youths who will be judged as adults.”
Several international organizations, including Human Right Watch and Unicef, have said that the constitutional amendment to reduce the age of criminal responsibility constitutes a setback.
According to a study published Tuesday by the Institute of Applied Economic Research, known by the Portuguese acronym Ipea, 23,100 teenagers were legally deprived of their freedom in 2013 in Brazil, of which just 3,200 were arrested for murder, rape or inflicting bodily harm.
“The rest are deprived of freedom for acts such as robbery and drug trafficking, things that would not justify the severity of the measure (of putting them in prison),” Ipea’s Enid Rocha said.
“With no schooling, with no work and with precarious work possibilities, the young people remain even more unprotected and, consequently, more exposed – for example – to cooptation by of organized crime,” the report said.