Brazil: The New Frontier For Prison Profiteers

~ Despite sometimes horrific conditions and recent spells of inmate violence, parts of Brazil are considered innovative in prison management. ~

Excerpts from The Economist – Locking In The Best Price

“…America introduced the idea of private prisons in the 1980s; at that time most Europeans would have hated the thought of farming out one of the state’s most sensitive functions. But gradually more countries have come to accept the idea that incarceration—under terms laid down by the state—is one of the things which the private sector might do more efficiently.

First the concept spread through the English-speaking world. Then the French came up with semi-private jails, in which the state employs only the guards; now fully or partly privatised prisons are planned in countries from Denmark to Hong Kong. A growing number of poor countries are trying new models, as they look for better, cheaper ways to accommodate prisoners.

The rich world still leads the way. More than 17% of Australia’s inmates are held in private prisons, says Stephen Nathan, the editor of Prison Privatisation Report International. Next comes Britain, with 10%, and America at 7%. These markets are dominated by big prison-services firms such as GEO, MTCand Serco, which claim that private jails are better, cheaper and more accountable in both construction and management.

Developing countries are trying other variations. In Latin America, prison management has been outsourced to private contractors, non-profit organisations and even religious groups. In Belize, members of a local Rotary club help manage a prison. Proponents of private prisons in South Africa say that they are less crowded than state-run ones, and better equipped to give inmates education and training. They are also better able to limit the influence of gangs and thus to prevent bullying, sexual assaults and venereal disease. The semi-private “European” model has been adopted elsewhere. Chile has been especially keen on this approach: it recently opened three new semi-private prisons. Six of Brazil’s 27 states have semi-privatised jails…” Full Story

~ Cutting costs through privatisation always sounds like an attractive option; but cutting exactly the right deal with private providers of such a crucial service is difficult, and the price of failure is high. ~


– $ – Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world (second only to the U.S., China & Russia), with about half a million people living squeezed behind bars. – $ –

Except – Brazil to Open First Public-Private Prison

By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

“BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – A prison in the state of Minas Gerais will be the country’s first public-private partnership (PPP) jail when inaugurated in January, Globo reported. The Ribeirão das Neves penitentiary, along with another PPP prison in Pernambuco under construction, have rekindled the debate about private sector involvement in Brazil’s beleaguered prison system.

Brazil’s prison conditions are notoriously bad, suffering from occasional bouts of violence and serious overcrowding. The Justice Minister, José Eduardo Cardozo, recently caused a stir when he said he would “rather die” than spend time in jail.

“Something has to be done to improve prisons in Brazil. The system is chaotic,” said Fernanda Kellner de Oliveira Palermo, a São Paulo state lawyer and expert on prison privatization. “There are some prisons in Brazil that have disrespected the most elementary human rights for decades.”

There are currently 26 prisons in six states that outsource some duties to private firms. Of the 549,577 prisoners who were incarcerated in June this year, 3.5 percent were in privately run prisons, according to the Ministry of Justice. The difference with the new PPP institutions is that private companies will build them from scratch, and will be contracted for 27 years, compared to five.

Critics of prison privatization say that profiteering has no place in an institution that provides essential care and services as sensitive as rehabilitation. Others see potential for corruption, and argue that companies managing prisons could be financially incentivized to lobby for tougher sentencing..” Full Story

~$~ “How can you expect an administrator of private prisons aimed at social rehabilitation of convicts and the reduction of crime to work in this direction, when its profits drive it in the opposite direction?” ~$~


Organizing Prisons through Public-Private Partnerships: A Cross-Country Investigation



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2 thoughts on “Brazil: The New Frontier For Prison Profiteers

  1. Pingback: Brazilian Troops Bulldoze Homes; Leave Thousands Homeless | MisBehaved Woman

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