Gajop– Office of Legal Advice to Popular Organizations

Popular Legal Advice: Acting on the impacts of the Drug Law


Objectives and target audience

Contribute to the confrontation of the impacts caused by Law 11,343/2006, which establishes the National System of Public Policies on Drugs, highlighting the structural elements of inequalities (gender, race, and class).

Main activities

  • Selection and training of community legal advisors and law students on the following topics: Structural elements of inequality (gender, race, and class) Drug Law; Custody hearings; Elaboration and filing of Habeas Corpus
  • Legal guidance to relatives of persons deprived of their liberty within the communities
  • Follow-up of emblematic cases related to crimes typified in law 11,343/2006 in custody hearings and filing of habeas corpus when necessary
  • Mobilization of relatives of persons deprived of their liberty
  • Participation in public activities in favor of persons deprived of their liberty
  • Seminar with family members and civil society and the actors of the Criminal Justice System
  • Publication of the experience
  • Dissemination of emblematic judicial decisions in social media, debating their legality


Data from the latest National Survey of Penitentiary Information (Infopen), released in December 2017, reveal that Brazil accounted for 726,712 people in prison, ranking as the third largest incarceration force in absolute numbers worldwide, only behind the United States, which has 2.1 million, and China, whose prison population is 1.6 million. In Brazil, the rate of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants increased to 352.6 individuals. Of the total, about 40% are prisoners awaiting trial, that is, they are placed inside the prison system without judicial conviction. More than half of this population is made up of young people aged 18 to 29 years, 64% are Black, and 28% of the total entered the penitentiary system because of Law 11,343/2006 (Drug Law), for having any relation to narcotic substances.

Concerning the female prison population, Infopen Women, published in May 2018, indicated that Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world, with 42,355 women imprisoned. Between 2000 and 2016, there was a 656% increase in the female population, while the male population grew by 293%. Law 11,343/2006 again appears as the main reason for the imprisonment of women, being responsible for 62% of incarcerations. It is worth noting that in Pernambuco, 88% of these women are Black, 31% are under 30 years of age and 56% are provisional prisoners, that is, 942 of the 1,672 women prisoners have not even been tried, but are already inserted in the female prison units.

The social and racial profile of the prison population in Brazil only reflects the construction of this stereotype in a racist and profoundly unequal country. Black and poor young people living in the favelas are often the target of police approaches, have their word discredited by legal procedures and do not have the financial resources to afford an excellent technical defense. Even with the consolidated understanding of the Federal Supreme Court, which has resulted in significant advances regarding the substitution of the imprisonment period for a restrictive rights penalty and the establishment that the legislator cannot prohibit the granting of bail in these crimes, the Courts of Justice continue to give disproportionate treatment to those accused of involvement with narcotic substances, in apparent disagreement with the higher courts.

The relationship with drugs is what most drives people to prison, especially women. In Brazil, the Drug Law of 2006 has been responsible for the massive increase in imprisonments for not presenting clear and objective criteria on what should be considered personal consumption and what should be considered drug trafficking. Such classification is at the mercy of the subjective assessment of the Police and, later, of the Judiciary, which uses subjective criteria analyzing the nature and quantity of the substance seized, the place and circumstances in which such action occurred and the personal and social conditions of the agent. In this way, the mass incarceration of the Black, poor and peripheral population, whose bodies are present in the criminalized territories, takes place, making them the preferred targets of police violence and imprisonment.

In this alarming scenario of the collapse of the Brazilian Penitentiary System, Pernambuco is in 6th place in the ranking of states for the total number of prisoners, losing only to São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, and Ceará. It also ranks 9th in the highest number of provisional prisoners, with these accounting for 51% of the prison population of the state, according to Infopen (2016) data. The state also hosts the country’s worst prison not only in terms of overcrowding, but also in regard to human rights violations, according to a report released in October 2015 by Human Rights Watch (HRW), entitled O Estado Deixou o Mal TomarConta (The State Allowed Evil to Take Over), a 35-page document that presents a chaotic scenario that is routine in the Curado Complex (former Aníbal Bruno). There, three in five prisoners are so-called provisional, which corresponds to more than 3.5 thousand of the total of 7 thousand inmates that are in the complex, whose maximum capacity is of 1.8 thousand. “Overcrowding is a serious problem in Brazilian prisons, and nowhere is it more serious than in Pernambuco,” says Maria Laura Canineu, director of HRW’s Brazil office. One must agree with the words of the Argentine jurist Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni, “each country has the number of prisoners it politically decides to have” (TAVARES, 2003).

About the organization

The GAJOP was founded in 1981 in Recife by a group of lawyers who wanted to work on developing popular legal education on the specific subject of housing rights. In the particular case of the right to security, there was still no entity in Brazil that worked in the area. The GAJOP felt the need to formulate proposals for the security and justice system, including the elaboration of new police action. It was the moment in which the entity left the subject of the right to housing, with which it worked previously, and built another object of intervention: the right to security and justice. The GAJOP is the articulating organization of the National Movement of Human Rights in Pernambuco. It has already been supported in 2016, with the project “Dialogues for change: combating structural racism in the provisional incarceration in Pernambuco.”


Movimentos Negros e de Mulheres (Black and Women Movements)
Coletivo Acadêmicas Negras (Black Academics Group)
Coletivo de Mulheres Negras Filhas do Vento (Black Women Group Wind Daughters)
Rede de Mulheres Negras de Pernambuco (Pernambuco Black Women Network)

Funding Line

Fighting Racism from the Bottom Up



Total Granted

R$ 70 mil


16 months

Main Themes

Confronting racism

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