Brazil Begins Moving Inmates to First Public-Private Prison

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608 inmates are set to be transferred to Brazil’s first public-private prison, jointly run by the state and a business consortium, one of the steps the government is taking to reform its troubled penitentiary system, traditionally home to organized crime.

The inmates will be transferred to the Riberao das Neves prison complex by January 18, reports Brazil news organization R7. The prison will eventually house 3,040 male inmates, although none convicted of violent crimes. One of the inmates expected to be moved this week is businessman Marcos Valerio, recently sentenced to 40 years for his involvement in one of Brazil’s biggest ever corruption scandals, which badly damaged the image of former President Lula da Silva. The prison is expected to be fully functional by the end of 2013. 

The Riberao das Neves prison complex, based outside Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third-biggest city, is a $137 million project which will be primarily managed by business consortium Prison Managers Associates (Gestores Prisionais Associados – GPA). While the state will provide some funding and will handle aspects of prison security, the day-to-day administration of the prison complex, including providing food, health, and educational services to the inmates, will be handled by the private sector. While there are other prisons in Brazil that are semi-privatized, Riberao das Neves is Brazil’s first public-private partnership (PPP) prison. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

For now, it appears as though the Riberao das Neves complex is meant to house white-collar criminals like Valerio, and will thus contribute somewhat to separating Brazil’s non-violent offenders from other inmates. The prison will also likely be closely observed by advocates of prison reform, to see if the PPP model could prove to be an effective alternative to how Brazil’s overcrowded penitentiaries are currently run. 

Brazil’s prison system serves as a breeding ground for organized criminal groups like the First Capital Command (PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho). These groups use prisons as refuges in order to plan strategy, and run kidnapping, drug trafficking, and extortion schemes.

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