Global Justice

When Freedom is the Exception: The Impact of pre-trial detention mass incarceration and on the Human Rights Violations of Persons Deprived of their Freedom in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Objectives and target audience

Contributing to the strengthening of public policies that guarantee the rights of persons deprived of their freedom, in particular of the pre-trial detainees.

Main activities

Political impact

Promoting advocacy with the federal government to ensure the implementation and structuring of the National Mechanism to Prevent and Combat Torture; promote advocacy with state governments to contribute to the implementation, structuring and strengthening of State Mechanisms for Preventing and Combating Torture in the states of the project; participate in the National and State Committees of Prevention and Combat to Torture of RJ; to carry out advocacy actions regarding the implementation of Custody Hearings to act together with other organizations in the Criminal Justice Network (follow-up and incidence in the process of Bill 554/2011 of the Federal Senate and other relevant proceedings); to carry out advocacy actions in the scope of the provisional measures regarding the implementation and effectiveness of the Custody Hearings in Pernambuco and Maranhão; (Law No. 13,257 / 16), which establishes the substitution of preventive custody for home arrest in the case of pregnant women, women with children up to 12 years of age and men, who are the sole responsible for the care of children of up to 12 years.

Research and production of knowledge

Conduct monitoring visits to prison units in the Curado Complex (Pernambuco), Pedrinhas Complex (Maranhão) and Urso Branco Detention Unit (Rondônia); to produce a comparative study addressing the specificities and solutions adopted in the three states (Pernambuco, Maranhão and Rondônia) to determine what local actions were able to focus on reducing the number of pre-trial detention improving the imprisonment conditions; systematize and disseminate data obtained from the Courts of Justice on custody hearings in Rondônia, Pernambuco and Maranhão; document the emblematic cases of provisional prisoners who are being detained without any reason and in violation of the law, and whose detention could have been prevented; to produce a comparative analysis of the implementation and effectiveness of custody hearings in Rondônia, Pernambuco and Maranhão.


Hold a meeting with human rights defenders working with the prison system and members of the Mechanism to Prevent and Fight Torture to present the results of the report drawn up after visits to prison units in three states and construction of collective action strategies; promote exchange between members of the MEPCT / RJ and MEPCT / PE to exchange experiences and potentiate the performance; participate in the meetings and actions of the State Group for Disincarceration in Rio de Janeiro; promote the Agenda for Disincarceration with human rights actors in at least two states of the project; organizing, mobilizing and participating in the II National Meeting of the Agenda for the Disincarceration; to enable the participation of four partners (MA, RO, PE and RJ) at the II National Meeting of the Agenda for Disincarceration; holding 3 preparatory and mobilization meetings (RJ, PE and MA) for human rights actors towards the II National Meeting of the Agenda for Deregulation; taking part in the organization of a national seminar on prison system.


To monitor compliance with the provisional measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the cases involving the Complex of Curado (Pernambuco) and the Complex of Pedrinhas (Maranhão) and the progress of the Urso Branco case in the Inter-American System (Rondônia); produce reports  regarding the situation of the visited prison units and present them to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and to the Brazilian government to subsidize its actions towards facing the rights violations in the states of Pernambuco and Maranhão.


Produce and disseminate a thematic newsletter on the fight against torture and the strategic importance of the Committees and Mechanisms to Prevent and Fight Torture through the Global Justice website; systematize and publicize the progress of the provisional measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; revise and publish the National Agenda for Deregulation; produce video for the dissemination of the National Agenda for Disincarceration; create a website to disseminate the National Agenda for Disincarceration; carry out communication actions to comply with the Early Childhood Legal Framework (Law No. 13.257 / 16) aimed at the criminal justice system and to raise public awareness.



Today Brazil holds the fourth place in the ranking of the countries with the largest prison population, behind only the United States, China, and Russia. Between 1990 and 2014, while the country’s population grew 30%, the prison population increased 692%, going from 90,000 to approximately 622,000 detainees. And, in contrast to the worldwide trend of reducing incarceration rates (such as in the United States, China, and Russia), this number continues to grow 7% a year in Brazil, and now, it reached an average of 300 people imprisoned per 100,000 people – a rate of incarceration that is twice the world rate. Brazil is also notable for the selective nature of its criminal model, with about 80% of incarcerations related to crimes against property and small drug trafficking. And it reproduces in the prison system the same color, social class and territorial bias of the populations who were historically marginalized and excluded from the Brazilian civilization process: young, Black and poor people living in the outskirts of big cities. In addition, this structural selectivity has been aggravated by the continuous increase in the female prison population, which in Brazil is growing at an annual rate twice higher that of the male population – in the State of Rio de Janeiro between 2013 and 2014, the number of female detainees increased from 1,618 to 4,139. These numbers step up the brutal violation of rights of a population to which the presumption of innocence and the ample defense in all the phases of inquiry and procedural instruction are denied. These people are arbitrarily incarcerated in degrading sanitary conditions, deprived of their family’s visits, with no access to work, recreation, sports and educational activities, exposed to situations of violence, torture and serious risk to physical, psychological and life integrity.

About the organization

Global Justice is a non-governmental human rights organization which mission is to protect and promote human rights and the strengthening of civil society and democracy. Global Justice has been operating in several states in Brazil since 1999 and carries out actions at the national, regional and international levels. The organization is divided into four major areas: Institutional Violence and Public Security; Human Rights Defenders; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Communication. Each of the Global Justice programs operates according to five action strategies: Research and documentation; strategic litigation; communication; training and advocacy. Seminars and hearings were held and reports were disclosed.

Funding Line

Criminal Justice (2017-2018)



Total Granted

R$ 528.954,40


24 months

Main Themes

Guaranteeing the rule of law and criminal justice

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