National Prison Pastoral

TORTURE IN TIMES OF MASS IMPRISONMENT: Interim Imprisonment, Vulnerable Groups and the Justice System in the Face of Criminal Violence

São Paulo

Objectives and target audience

To contribute to the improvement and strengthening of strategies for preventing and fighting torture in prisons, especially regarding pre-trial detainees and other vulnerable populations in the prison system, closely linked to the struggle for disencarceration.

Main activities

Follow-up of torture denounces

Maintenance of Prison Pastoral’s online system and other channels (on-site, postal and telephone) where torture denounces can be placed; monitoring of the justice system’s response to the denounces, seeking to focus on their proceeding, with a view to complying with national and international standards; maintenance and updating of the Prison Pastoral Database on torture, registering new cases and updates along the duration of the project.

Acting in loco in São Paulo and in other eight States

Visiting prisons and police stations in nine states, in the five regions of the country, focusing on the survey of cases of torture and information on conditions of imprisonment, with special attention to pre-trial detainees and to the identification of vulnerable groups in the prison system; conducting a training activity in each of the visited states to qualify the organization’s performance in preventing and combating torture and presenting the conclusions and proposals of the report “Torture in times of mass incarceration” and of the National Agenda for Disincarceration; in loco verification of torture cases that are already registered in the database, seeking to meeting in person the victims, complainants and authorities responsible for the investigation; presentation to local authorities of the report “Torture in times of mass incarceration”.

Knowledge production

Elaboration of articles that address the analyzes and conclusions of the report “Torture in times of mass incarceration”, which will be disseminated in selected communication vehicles; preparation of a guidebook to be distributed to Prison Pastoral agents, seeking the construction of accessible content and visual material that can provide practical guidelines on how to deal with cases of torture; preparation of a new report at the end of the project, containing the updated data from the Torture Database organized by the Prison Pastoral, the results of the visits to the states, focusing on pre-trial detainees and vulnerable groups, and a wide and critical reflection on the analysis articulated in the previous report; updating of the National Agenda for Disincarceration, with regard to its preventing and combating torture axis, seeking to include in the text the analyzes and conclusions of the report “Torture in times of mass incarceration”.

Political impact

Holding a national seminar on combating torture and deprivation; the II National Meeting for the Disincarceration; elaboration and dissemination of thematic newsletters on torture and deprivation, in virtual and sound format; holding lectures and debates in São Paulo, with partners working in the area of ​​prevention and the fight against torture; reproduction of the report “Torture in times of mass incarceration”; launching of the new report; production of videos.


Trips to Brasilia to conduct advocacy with Justice System authorities, aiming at the construction of more effective national norms or recommendations for the prevention and fight against torture in the Judiciary system, Public Ministry and Public Defender’s Office; implementing at least one pro bono civil action aiming at the obtaining compensation to an individual who has been a victim of torture, ill-treatment or other related state violence.


In just 14 years, the Brazilian prison population increased 167.32%, according to data from the National Penitentiary Department (DEPEN). In addition to the people serving closed, semi-open, open, house arrest regimes as well as custodial sentences, Brazil has already surpassed the mark of one million human beings under criminal custody, according to information provided by the National Justice Council, in an uninterrupted process of growth since the promulgation of the Federal Constitution of 1988. In that period, more precisely between 2003 and 2014, homicide cases in Brazil skyrocketed increasing 21.9%, reaching the stratospheric mark of 59,627,000 people killed in 2014 alone, confirming that this mass incarceration is incapable of meeting its stated goals of promoting security and fighting violence. The mass incarceration has been made possible by the abusive use of imprisonment previous to condemnation, which already accounts for 41% of the prison population, due to the current War on Drugs policy, which accounts for the imprisonment of 28% of men and 64% of women, by the commercial exploitation of the penitentiary system, which has mobilized intense lobbying of economic groups for more penalties and more punishment, and by the militarized action of police agencies, which operate in a productivity logic of imprisonment, many times aiming at the extermination of certain groups of people.

About the organization

The Prison Pastoral’s mission is to offer religious and human assistance to detainees and former detainees, as well as to their families. The work focuses on two axes, a strictly religious one, which goal is to fulfill the constitutional mandate to offer religious and other human rights-based assistance to those people. Over the last 20 years, the Prison Pastoral has focused on the problem of torture and adopts a strategy to fight this practice using two approaches: prevention and reaction. The preventive approach is given mainly through regular visits to prison units, which the Pastoral does through its volunteers spread throughout Brazil; the reactive one consists in sending notitias criminis (formal communication) to authorities responsible for ascertaining the suspicion of torture.

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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