FOLHA DE S.PAULO, O ESTADO DE S. PAULO (Brazil)

Worldcrunch

SÃO PAULO - Brazilian Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo has sparked controversy by describing the nation's prison system as “medieval” and declaring that he would prefer to die rather than pass a long period in Brazilian jails.

Brazil's Fohla de S. Paulo daily reported the statement, which was made at an event this week in São Paulo, one day after the Supreme Court sentenced a former senior presidential official José Dirceu to 10 years in prison on corruption charges.

Cardozo's comments came in response to a question about re-introducing the death penalty in Brazil. “If I was to stay many years in some of our prisons, I’d rather die”, he said.

[A prison in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state / Photo: Marcelo Suarez Saldanha/Divulgação]

The minister added that the Brazilian penal system does not succeed in rehabilitating criminals. “Those who get there as first-time petty criminals often leave as members of large criminal organizations,” he said.

Data from the Ministry of Justice shows that last year there were 471,000 people in Brazilian prisons for just 295,000 places. According to specialists, one of the main reasons is the high number of temporary prisoners waiting for trial. About 37% of the total amount face such conditions.

[A prison in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state / Photo: Marcelo Suarez Saldanha/Divulgação]