MTA Law Working Papers


Vinicius Gorczeski: Pretrial Detention and its (ab)use in Brazil: pathways to overcome prison overcrowding and a rule of law issue

Brazil has substantially increased the number of pretrial detainees over the past years, with 650,000 people in jail awaiting trial. The practice, surrounded not only by violations against international legal standards but also national laws, has placed Brazil among the top three countries in the world with the highest numbers of pretrial detainees, only behind the United States and China. First, this paper offers an overview of overcrowding prisons, the drivers of the problem in Brazil, and how they contribute to undermine the country’s rule of law standards in criminal justice and fundamental rights, as assessed by the World Justice Project. The role and practice of justice authorities, from police offers to judges, is put into context as factors contributing to widen the problem. Policy-oriented, this paper subsequently lays out tentative solutions and options that, being based on international best practices and tailor-made to Brazil’s current justice system landscape, aim to alleviate the quandary that not only has not contributed to make streets in Brazil safer but that are indeed prone to increasing violence in prisons.