Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos (Human Rights Society of Maranhão)

Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos (Human Rights Society of Maranhão)


Objectives and target audience

Contribute to combating the abusive use of provisional arrests, mass incarceration and criminal selectivity against blacks and the poor in the state of Maranhão.

Main activities

• Knowledge production and influencing the judiciary’s performance in custody hearings, by monitoring it.
• Keeping records on judicial decisions in custody hearings and reporting torture, excesses, and abuses reported by inmates during custody hearings;
• Elaboration of a database on the arguments of Judiciary decisions;
• Analysis and preparation of Technical Note on the grounding of decisions;
• Monitoring the treatment of reports of torture and abuse of authority by defendants at custody hearings;
• Development and implementation of an advocacy strategy to influence criminal justice system authorities and avoid dismissal of torture reports.
• Participatory monitoring of the implementation of provisional measures by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and of the recommendations made by the National Mechanism for Preventing and Fighting Torture, based on relations established with the Public Defender’s Office of the State of Maranhão.
• Keeping a record of legal notices regarding information from judicial bodies on compliance with provisional measures and recommendations;
• Preparation of analytical reports for the Inter-American Court and National Committee;
• Workshop on participatory research organized by friends and relatives of inmates and defense centers (participatory monitoring);
• Visits to prison units;
• Holding of public hearings in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Maranhão and the National Congress to improve the legal framework of custody hearings.
• Communication actions to give visibility to the debates on torture, custody hearings and the precautionary measures of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
• Press office;
• Dissemination of reports and technical notes on the research and the monitoring;
• Publication of periodic bulletins on the incarceration situation, living conditions in prisons and the progress of reports of torture and abuses made at custody hearings;
• Production of videos on imprisonment, living conditions in prisons and dissemination in alternative media;
• Disclosure of the National Agenda for Incarceration Reduction.


In Maranhão, the prison population increased by 25% (from March 2015 to June 2017) with a total of 9,608 inmates, with about half this number still concentrated in the capital, São Luís. Of this total, 4,513 are provisional inmates, over 50% of the prison population, almost at the same rates from the last decade. The number is frightening, considering that the mechanism for incarceration reduction foreseen for the custody hearings is in force and, even so, the provisional release rate does not surpass 47% of the total demand presented. In Maranhão prisons, there is a lack of vacancies, which aggravates incarceration conditions and subjecting prison routine management to criminal groups, which are divided by factions inside prison units.

About the organization

 The Human Rights Society of Maranhãowas founded in 1979 and is a benchmark in the protection of people under threat, combating torture and monitoring violence. It reports several human rights violations, both nationally and internationally, including the Provisional Measures of the Penitentiary Complex of Pedrinhas filed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an object of the SMDH and three other entities.

Funding Line

Criminal Justice (2017-2018)



Total Granted

R$ 250 mil


20 months

Main Themes

Guaranteeing the rule of law and criminal justice

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