The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ) authorized on Wednesday the release of all prisoners in the country who only need to pay bail to leave prison, as a measure to contain the covid-19 pandemic.
The Third Chamber of the STJ responded to a recommendation by the National Council of Justice (CNJ), based on measures to contain the new coronavirus pandemic, and granted a collective habeas corpus to guarantee the release of all prisoners who were granted provisional freedom conditional on the payment of bail, but which they were unable to do so due to lack of economic capacity.
At Wednesday’s trial, the court upheld a provisional ruling dated April, which already authorized people in these conditions to be released.
In April, Judge Sebastião Reis, the case reporter, responded to a request from the Public Defender’s Office (unofficial lawyers) of Espírito Santo, addressed to prisoners in that state. However, later, it accepted the request of the Public Defender of the Union and extended the decision to the whole country.
“The factual picture presented by the state of Espírito Santo is identical to the other Brazilian states: the risk of contagion due to the coronavirus pandemic is similar throughout the country, as well as the picture of overcrowding and unhealthy conditions in Brazilian prisons, which is why the effects of this decision must be extended to the entire national territory ”, affirmed the magistrate.
According to the judge, independent studies that people living in agglomerations, such as in prisons, are more likely to contract a disease, even when providing personal protective equipment.
Sebastião Reis also pointed out that both the United Nations (UN) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommended the adoption of alternative measures to prison to mitigate the high risks of spreading the disease in the prison environment.
Prisoners who were detained under other conditions, without having to pay bail to leave the prison, will remain in the same situation.
The decision further determined that local courts of law assess the need or not to apply precautionary measures that work as alternatives to bail – which is now released only when this is the only obstacle that keeps the investigated or defendant in prison.
The Brazilian prison system, considered one of the worst in the world, has a deficit of around 350,000 vacancies, which for years has aggravated overcrowding in prisons, and can increase the spread of the new coronavirus in the prisons.
The emergence of the new coronavirus, which has already caused more than 5.1 million people infected and 151,747 deaths across the country, further complicated the situation in Brazilian prisons.
The National Penitentiary Department (Depen), a state agency responsible for the prison population, accounts for almost 30,000 infected by the new coronavirus and 119 deaths in prisons across Brazil, the Portuguese-speaking country most affected by the pandemic and one of the hardest hit in the world.
The covid-19 pandemic has already caused more than one million and eighty-seven thousand deaths and more than 38.2 million cases of infection worldwide, according to a report made by the French agency AFP.