Lessons for Brazil from US prison mistakes

Maria Laura Canineu and Cesar Munoz – Human Rights Watch, 10/31/2015

The United States is providing early release this weekend for 6,000 inmates who have been serving federal sentences for non-violent drug crimes — the biggest one-time release of inmates in US history. It’s a sign of a tectonic shift occurring in the United States, which keeps more people locked up than any other county. US politicians from both parties and even police chiefs have come to agree that mass incarceration does not enhance public safety.

It’s a move Brazil should examine closely.

Brazil holds the dubious distinction of incarcerating the world’s fourth-biggest prison population. While the number of people behind bars has gone down in the top three countries since 2008, Brazil is heading in the opposite direction. Its prison population has multiplied almost sevenfold in a quarter of a century, to more than 600,000 inmates, who are held in facilities with a total capacity of 377,000.

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