Image: Notorious Brazilian Prison Strives For Reform

Crime & Courts

Violent Unrest Eases Inside Brazil's Most Notorious Prison

Inside Pedrinhas Prison Complex where 60 inmates died in 2013 and three prisoners were beheaded last year, violence is down because of new measures and political attention.

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Image: Notorious Brazilian Prison Strives For Reform

Inmates pray before a soccer match in the Pedrinhas Prison Complex, the largest penitentiary in Maranhao state in Sao Luis, Brazil.

Previously one of the most violent prisons in Brazil, Pedrinhas has seen efforts from a new state administration, new prison officials and judiciary leaders from Maranhao which appear to have quelled some of the unrest within the complex.

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Inmates stand in their cell in the Pedrinhas Prison.

In 2013, nearly 60 inmates were killed within the complex, including three who were beheaded during rioting. Much of the violence stemmed from broken cells allowing inmates and gang rivals to mix in the patios and open spaces of the complex.

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An inmate paints in the Pedrinhas Prison.

According to officials there have been no prisoner on prisoner killings inside the complex in nearly four months.

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Miltary Police patrol in the Pedrinhas Prison.

Officials recently repaired and repopulated the cells allowing law enforcement access and decreasing violence among prisoners, according to officials. Other reforms include a policy of custody hearings and real-time camera feeds.

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Inmates walk from their cells towards a recreation area in the Pedrinhas Prison.

A vast increase in minor drug arrests, a dearth of legal advice for prisoners and a lack of political will for new prisons have contributed to the increases.

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Female inmates gather with babies as they greet visitors in the Pedrinhas Prison.

The population of those imprisoned had quadrupled in the past twenty years to around 550,000 and the country needs at least 200,000 new incarceration spaces to eliminate overcrowding.

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Miltary Police patrol in the Pedrinhas Prison.

Critics believe overcrowding is one of the primary causes of rioting and violence in Brazil's prisons. Additionally, overcrowding has strengthened prison gangs which now span the country and control certain peripheries of cities including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Sao Luis.

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An inmate uses a mirror to view visitors in the Pedrinhas Prison.

Brazil now has the fourth-largest prison population in the world behind the U.S., Russia and China.

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