This news brief was published at InSight Crime.
Shocking footage of Brazil prison guards torturing inmates has sparked an investigation, and serves as a stark reminder of the poor prison conditions that strengthen the country’s powerful prison gangs.
The Attorney General’s Office for the central Brazilian state of Goiás has launched an investigation into prison guard abuses after receiving videos recorded in several of the state’s prisons, O Globo reports.
The videos recorded last year show multiple guards from the Penitentiary Operations Group (Grupo de Operações Penitenciárias – GOPE) using stun guns to shock inmates in various Goiás prisons.
In the recordings, several inmates are seen kneeling or sitting on the ground when they are repeatedly shocked by guards. One inmate is also seen sleeping in a hammock in his cell when a guard shocks the inmate several times until he falls to the ground.
A GOPE guard, who O Globo reports was present during the abuses “but did not agree with his colleagues’ behavior,” turned the videos over to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Two guards in charge of the unit have been removed from their positions. Marcelo Celestino, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, told O Globo’s Bom Dia Go that all of the guards visible in the videos are currently under investigation.
InSight Crime Analysis
The recent videos documenting torture in several Brazilian prisons are the latest example of the appalling conditions that have given rise to the country’s ever-strengthening prison gangs.
Brazil’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded and understaffed, which has fueled inhumane treatment of inmates, torture and bloody riots, which sometimes spill into the streets.
In response to these conditions, Brazil’s most prominent criminal networks, the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) among them, formed as prisoners’ rights organizations. At the outset, both groups grew strong by seeking justice and protection for prisoners in the face of brutal repression by prison guards. However, both have transformed over time into extensive criminal networks.
The PCC and the Red Command now coordinate criminal activities such as extortion and drug dealing both inside and outside of Brazil’s prisons, and the PCC has begun to expand into several other countries in the region.
Ironically, these powerful criminal networks are likely to wield control as long as the conditions within Brazil’s prison system, such as those that appear on the videos, continue to be the norm.
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