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  • Fifty-five prisoners have died in Rio de Janeir's state penitentiaries between January and April.

    Fifty-five prisoners have died in Rio de Janeir's state penitentiaries between January and April. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 August 2018

The state of Rio de Janeiro has seen frequent outbreaks of tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy, and scabies among its prison population.

The Public Defender's office for the state of Rio de Janeiro has reported that a prisoner has died every two days during the first four months of 2018. The majority of the deaths, a total of 55 from January to April, have been attributed to infectious diseases, substandard hygienic conditions and the lack of healthcare professionals operating in the prison system.

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Since February, Rio de Janeiro's state penitentiary system, as well as the entire state public security apparatus, has been run by the military, ordered by Senate-imposed president Michel Temer and headed by general Walter Braga Netto.

The number of prisoner deaths was made public to substantiate a civil lawsuit brought by the Public Defender's office against the state and municipality of Rio de Janeiro. The capital city is home to 31 of the state's 55 prison units.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the Brazilian states that has not implemented the National Policy of Integrate Healthcare of Detained Persons in the Prison System, or PNAISP. Created in 2014 by the Ministry of Health, the program stipulates that funds should be allocated for municipal medical agents to be present in prison units and attend to the primary health care needs of prisoners.

The state of Rio de Janeiro has seen frequent outbreaks of tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy, and scabies, as well as diabetes and hypertension among its prison population.

On February 16, Brazil's federal government dispatched the army to assume full control of public security forces in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of soldiers patrol public streets in predominantly poor, working-class neighborhoods.

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