Fighting human rights violations arising from malpractices in the pre-trial detention regime under the Brazilian criminal justice system

Rio de Janeiro

Objectives and target audience

Contribute to the debate on the massive incarceration of temporary prisoners as a major criminal policy through research, advocacy, training, and communication.

Main activities

Provisory Detention

Custody hearings represent a step forward in guaranteeing rights in the field of ​​Criminal Justice. However, they face resistance from society and from the justice system itself. In addition, the hearings fail to meet all the recommendations of the Initial Project proposed by the National Council of Justice. Iser evaluates what has been done until now and monitors the progress of this policy in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with the aim of strengthening it and improving its operation.


The Communication axis will accompany the production of knowledge and information of the entire line of work of the “Pre-trial Detention” axis.  Navigating on different media, this item is the base of the campaign “Two Prisoners, Two Measures” and it also relates to the production of content on pre-trial detention and other themes, creating communication strategies capable of influencing different audiences towards the confrontation of mass incarceration.

Alternatives Sentences

Research conducted by ISER in partnership with Brazil Human Rights Fund/OAK Foundation has shown flaws in its physical structure and in the monitoring of Weekend Limitation penalties and that the way Patronato Magarinos Torres works falls short of that established in the Law on Criminal Executions, which provides for courses and lectures, as well as educational programs. As a result of the focus groups developed with people who were serving this type of sentence (weekend limitation) at Patronato Magarinos Torres, there were reports about idleness during the compliance period and also on the poor conditions of the physical space. In view of this, we intend to carry out a pilot project – to be built jointly with the Patronato / SEAP and the support of other institutions, with the public of the weekend limitation, anticipating actions such as workshops, courses, debates, with the intention of qualify the conditions for compliance with this modality of restriction of rights.


According to INFOPEN (2017), in June 2016, the prison population was 726,000 people, making Brazil the 3rd country in the world with the largest prison contingent behind China and the United States. Pre-trial detentions make up for 40% of all detentions, evidencing the option of imprisonment as the main response given by the State to deviant behavior.

According to INFOPEN (December 2014), in Rio de Janeiro the prison population was 40,301 of which 41.83% had not been convicted. As early as June 2016, the population increased to 50,219 people and 40.1% of those were pre-trial detainees. CNJ data (January / 2017), in turn, indicate that prisoners without conviction in Rio de Janeiro represent 45.04% of the prison population.

These temporary arrests, in most cases unwarranted or abusive, burden the state and bring the social consequences of imprisonment to people who, in many cases, will not even be sentenced to it.

In addition to the large number of temporary arrests generated by the justice system, people wait for their trial for an excessive amount of time. While there is no clear definition regarding the maximum period for custody, data from the national Justice Council show that in Rio de Janeiro the average time is 375 days, that is, more than a year.

Imprisonment as a priority response muddles the look at other responses such as reparative and accountability measures that are often delegitimized and rely on low public investment. In the minds of people, isolation sentences are the right measure in the face of impunity, without any further reflection on its effects. However, there is no confirmed evidence linking the increase in the number of detentions to a reduction in crime or a sense of security.

About the organization

Iser is a committed civil society organization dedicated to human rights and democracy. Supported by the quality of its research, studies, training, and publications, it has developed the ability to promote dialogue between people ​​from social movements, scholars, civil entities and state bodies. It aims at contributing to the discussion and formulation of public policies and main areas of interest are: religion, environment, youth, civil society, violence, and gender and conflict mediation. In its 2014/2016 strategic planning, the prison system appears as a matter of high relevance.

Funding Line

Criminal Justice (2017-2018)



Total Granted

R$ 300 mil


20 months

Main Themes

Guaranteeing the rule of law and criminal justice

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