“For the love of God, human rights, incline your ears to this cry of despair.” With these words, prisoners from the Provisional Detention Center (CDP) of Caraguatatuba, on the coast of São Paulo, wrote a collective letter in which they report being under “inhumane conditions” in prison.
With the lack of access to food and health as central complaints, the letter to which Brasil de Fato had access explains that several times the prisoners tried to carry out “a peaceful strike to obtain a dialogue with this board”. They refer to the unit’s director, Alan Carlos Scarabel de Souza, and his team. Unsuccessfully, the arrested men met to write the “complaint, with an intelligent dialogue”.
“We do not have the strength to combat this oppression without the help of a competent body”, states the letter, which requests a visit from entities monitoring and defending human rights. Overcrowded, the Caraguatatuba unit has 847 places for 934 prisoners.
“Food is incompatible with our rights”
“The reason for this discontent and despair is that we are faced with a food condition that is incompatible with our rights”, say the prisoners.
“We know that we are within the (prison) system, but that is not why the board has the right to make cuts in appropriate items”, introduces the letter. “Rats walk around in every corner of the kitchen, leaving traces, urine that gets into our food, rat poop” denounces the text.
:: ‘It’s a portrait of the slave quarters’: inspections in SP prisons find necrotic feet, pregnant women without consultations and scarce food ::
“We spent a month receiving sour milk, cut in our salad, cut in our juice. Extreme reduction in the quantity of our food, beans and rice that do not meet our needs. The mixture, many meals are coming with boiled eggs and leftovers from the dirt of spoiled meat. Rotten beans three or four times a week, raw rice that cannot be eaten”, describe the inmates. “Every day, it became routine.”
Marília*’s son is one of the pre-trial detainees in Caraguatatuba. According to her, every time she visits him, he is thinner. “The food has been reduced a lot, they are very hungry. Some food arrived with broken glass already in it”, she says.
“Some prisoners even worked in the kitchen, so they saw the environment, right? Unhealthy, with rats,” he says. “Every time I go there, prisoners tell me: ‘auntie, the food they have is just so we don’t die'”, summarizes Marília.
Due to the complaints that reached the Specialized Center for Prison Situations (Nesc) of the Public Defender’s Office of São Paulo, two defenders who work in the region went to the Caraguatatuba CDP to provide assistance to some people in prison, a conversation with the director and a quick viewing of the prison.
“In the internal space of the CDP, the existence of objects intended to control rats was verified. However, in the wing intended for prisoners’ work, they even saw a rat entering the space. In interviews with prisoners, some indicated that rays 7 and 8 would be those with an infestation”, Nesc informed Brasil de Fato. “The Public Defender’s Office will continue to provide assistance on site and request pertinent information,” said the agency.
:: State of SP applies “starvation penalty” in its prisons, with an average of 15 hours of fasting per day ::
Last year, the Public Defender’s Office of the State of São Paulo received 74 reports of violations relating to the Caraguatatuba CDP. Of these, 39 relate to food. Another 13 are about mistreatment and eight about lack of access to healthcare.
When contacted, the Penitentiary Administration Secretariat (SAP) of the Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans) government stated that “the unit’s food is prepared by the custodians themselves and I respect a menu that was prepared by nutritionists, with a commission formed by SAP employees to evaluate and monitor the hygiene and cleaning conditions of the place”.
Also according to the department, which is headed by Military Police Colonel Marcello Streifinger, a health surveillance inspection in March would have attested to “the conditions of the unit’s kitchen”. “The CDP has pest control, pest control and monthly applications of insecticides and rodenticides. The last one took place on October 17th”, informed SAP.
In addition to food, the letter states that there are “issues involving health, medical negligence, delays in providing assistance, leading to the death of several re-educated children!” In fact, a man in state custody died on September 25th.
According to Marília, the prisoners say that the man was HIV positive and, without undergoing treatment, one day he started vomiting blood. His cellmates reportedly knocked on the bars asking for help. After a while, the man allegedly took him to the courtyard and stayed there for hours before being taken to the emergency room.
In the SAP version, the man died in the Emergency Care Unit (UPA) in Caraguatatuba. “He was included in the CDP of that municipality 13 days earlier and at the time declared that he had a chronic illness, but had abandoned treatment almost two years ago”, informed the ministry. “The prisoner felt ill and was taken to the UPA, where he died hours later from bronchopneumonia. The prison management opened an Investigation Procedure and registered a Police Report”, announced the secretariat.
In the complaint letter, the prisoners allege that the unit does not meet the demand for medicines and that communication with the infirmary is rare. “You can have any symptom, pain, even if you break a part of your body, you are left lying around waiting to be seen. Most of the time you return to the area with the same problem as when you left.”
“The jail is all moldy, it’s something like that… you know?”, sighs Marília. “When they ask for medicine, they only have dipyrone,” she says. Her report coincides with that of public defender Camila Tourinho.
“In the inspections we carry out in the state of São Paulo, we see that the health teams are very small, their work is very precarious and they are unable to serve the prison population of its size”, explains Tourinho.
“In addition to not being able to get medical care, prisoners complain about the lack of basic medicines. In general, any type of complaint is remedied with dipyrone or an anti-inflammatory, regardless of the symptoms they present”, narrates the Nesc public defender.
To Brasil de Fato, SAP says that the medicines “are administered according to medical determination and the unit receives medicines in accordance with the SUS list. Access to healthcare is guaranteed by the unit’s health sector. The most complex cases are treated via SUS and by the São Paulo State Penitentiary System Hospital Center”.
Complaints that drag on
The last inspection carried out by Nesc in the CDP of Caraguatatuba was in 2021. At the time, the current director of the unit already held the position. The inspection report indicated that the amount available for each meal was R$1.75. On the day the surprise visit was made, lunch was pasta with raw meat.
“The people arrested reported abuse in initiating investigations in the prison unit. They reported that it is enough to request medical attention to classify the conduct as inappropriate and classify the request as disrespect”, says the document to which the report had access.
“There were also many complaints about the absence of medicines in the unit, as well as the lack of individualization of the medicine provided, that is, medicine is delivered to the cell for collective use, without specifying the recipients, nor for which diseases they are indicated. Furthermore, the delivery of expired or close to expired medication was observed”, describes the Public Defender’s Office. Between 2018 and 2020, six people died within the Caraguatatuba CDP.
Highlighting that complaints regarding health and food are historical and constant, Camila Tourinho recalls that in 2022 SAP launched a resolution unifying the menu of prison units in the state of São Paulo, which has the largest prison population in the country, with around 195 One thousand people.
“This document was intended, at least formally, to unify the menu, providing for a greater variety of foods and nutrients. With the provision of salad, vegetables, fruits, juice”, says Tourinho. “What we have seen, however, is that this menu is not followed by prison units”, he attests.
“There are several problems that we see in relation to food, but it also seems very clear to me that there is a lack of investment from the Secretariat”, says Camila. “When transferring the budget, the units are often hostage to the lack of resources to guarantee the purchase of the necessary inputs.”
Last October 17, through decree 68,025, governor Tarcísio de Freitas cut R$27 million from SAP’s budget and allocated the resources to the Metropolitan Train Company (CPTM).
* Name changed to preserve the source.
Editing: Thalita Pires