Overcrowding is a problem in many prisons all over the world. Brazil is one of these nations that has to deal with overpopulated prisons. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world. They have about 548,003 prisoners inhabiting their correction facilities.
Brazil has created many programs to help reduce the time prisoners spend incarcerated. One of these programs is in Brazil’s maximum-security prison in Arisvaldo de Campos Pires. The program is called the Flor de Lotus. Brazilian fashion designer, Raquel Guimaraes, was struggling to find people to help her knit and crochet for her Doiselles label. She asked the prison to assist her in finding workers to help her create her hand made designs. Guimaraes trained prisoners convicted of any crime to knit and crochet for her. The inmates who participate receive one day off of their prison sentence for every three days that they work for Guimaraes.
Another program Brazil has implemented is called Redemption through Reading. Four federal prisons in Brazil participate in this program. For every book an inmate reads and writes a report on, four days are taken off of their prison sentence. The prisoners receive a maximum of 48 days off of their sentence a year.
In Santa Rita do Sapucai, the local town prison has established an additional incentive to reduce sentencing. The town has power-generating bicycles that charge batteries that are attached to the town street lamps. Inmates ride the bicycle and if they ride for twenty four hours, they receive a day off of their sentence.
These programs help give prisoners a chance to be trained in a trade and educated. It gives them an opportunity to benefit from their time spent in prison by having the prisoners trained in a skill. This enables them to find jobs more easily when they finish their sentence. These programs also allow the inmates to indirectly give back to their community. Are these programs beneficial to inmates? Do these programs help the community? Should other countries follow Brazil’s footsteps and implement programs like these to help inmates learn and to help reduce prison overcrowding? Are these programs successful in lessening the overcrowding issue that is affecting countries all over the world?
I have to commend Brazil for finding a creative solution to the problem, however, I am concerned about the fact that prisoners can take time off their sentence. I think this principle must be properly limited to specific types of crimes (like misdemeanors as opposed to felonies). I understand that the Redemption through Reading program limits itself to 48 days per year, but it is unclear if the other programs have similar limitations.
The idea of a limiting principle is important in this context. For example, under the Flor de Lotus program, it appears that an inmate can potentially knock off 1/3 of his or her sentence for helping a private interest. For small crimes, I don’t think this is a problem. But for example, I think most people would agree that murderers and rapists should not be able to shave so much time off their sentence through efforts that have no remedial effect on their initial crime.
I cannot agree more with dcalvellojr in that this program is on a very slipper slope. I think prisons that can create more creative ways for prisoners to spend their incarceration than being behind gray bars all day, which does nothing but makes the criminal worse than when he got in, must be commended for their ingenuity. However, we must take serious precautions when we allow a prisoner to take time off the sentence he is currently serving for the fact that he has broken the law. If we are going to go so far as to allow them to take off upwards of a month off their time we must ensure they are doing something worth that kind of serious reward. I do not see how reading a book helps the society in anyway and will not always help that criminal depending upon what that person chooses to read. I do not know of there are guidelines for which books are allowed for this program and which aren’t and whether there is a method in place for ensuring that the books are actually read but regardless I do not see how this gives that criminal the right to get out of jail earlier. Again, if this is going to be the reward we must ensure whatever the criminal is giving will benefit society in a major way.
The initiative taken by the Brazilian Government could be a great model for other countries suffering from prison overcrowding. The fact that one community has found a way to take incarcerated persons and create green energy is particularly inventive. I actually think having prisoners read and write a report is a great way to instill education in the inmates. The reading level of these convicted criminals is probably not that high, and with these skills, they might be able develop skills that will allow them to function in the world. I would like to know if there is a stipulation preventing certain crimes and the sentences attributable to them from being commuted. I don’t know if a convicted murder should be allowed to commute their sentence at all. However, I think the best way to prevent prison overcrowding is to prevent individuals from resorting to actions that are criminal in nature. This would take incarceration out of the equation entirely. Brazil and other countries need to create a societal net that will catch those falling through the cracks before they resort to criminal behavior. This would include further support of education, mental health programs, and shelters. While many view these activities as unnecessary and expensive, we should soon realize that the price of sending thousands of people to jail is an expense that goes beyond an attributable value and is a detriment to everyone.