RIO DE JANEIRO – Prisons in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state registered 442 inmate deaths between 2010 and 2016, equivalent to an average of five deaths a month, according to a study released Thursday by the Igarape Institute.
Of the 442 deaths tabulated during the period, 278 were from illness, 17 due to respiratory insufficiency, which the Public Ministry classified in this way and not as an illness, and in 117 cases the cause of death is not known, according to the report, which relied on official figures compiled by the regional Prison Administration Secretariat (Seap).
Another 13 inmates died violently, 12 committed suicide and the remaining five died from other causes.
Currently, the Rio de Janeiro prison system houses some 51,000 inmates in 43 facilities.
The Igarape Institute said that 13 of the state’s prisons hold 200 percent more inmates than they were designed for, in medium and large prisons with a capacity for between 600 and 1,000 prisoners.
“We observe that in some prisons the situation is very difficult. We are certain after this study that things are very bad and now it is clear to us what needs to be done to change a complicated situation,” the Institute’s researcher, Ana Pellegrino, told the G1 Web site.
Of the approximately 51,000 prisoners in Rio de Janeiro state, 38,368 have a basic education and 5,107 have no type of schooling, the study found.
At least 10,253 of the inmates are incarcerated for robbery, while 8,724 are in prison for drug trafficking.
Of the total number of inmates, 20,985 said they were part of the state’s largest criminal organization, the Comando Vermelho, while 7,392 belong to two other rival gangs and 20,189 were considered to be “neutral” by the investigators.
The problems experienced within the Rio de Janeiro prison system recur throughout Brazil, which at the beginning of this year was experiencing a serious prison crisis that left more than 150 inmates dead and allowed hundreds to escape in the subsequent months.
According to figures from the National Justice Commission, in April Brazil had 675,900 prisoners, the fourth largest prison population in the world after the United States, China and Russia.
The majority of Brazil’s prisons have serious problems of lack of security, overcrowding and poor living conditions.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual report that Brazil’s prison system is a “tragedy waiting to happen” and that the conditions in many facilities are straight out of the “Middle Ages.”