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Strip Search in Brazilian Jails is Reported to the United Nations

03/19/2014 - 09h17

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CLÁUDIA COLLUCCI
FOLHA COLUMNIST

"An official is already looking at me from head to toe with scorn and she says, 'you already know what you have to do'. I step on the detector with my clothes on, no bras, I walk into the strip search room with three or four girls, we take off all are clothes. And then the torture session begins: 'go down, push, make more effort. it is closed. push harder, cough, go down again, put your hand inside and open it, I am not seeing'. What does she want to see? My uterus? What is all of this? And the torture continues: get close to the wall , lay down, open more your legs and make an effort as you were going to have a baby. How so? I do not have children. I do not know how am I supposed to do this, but I try everything she asks. But nothing is enough for these officials, and then she call others to search me and they start all over again. By then, I am nervous and start crying. So now she plays with my psyche: why are you crying? Go, put your hand and take the drug out, take it out because I know you have it. My answer is: I'm tired. I have been here since yesterday, at the jail doors. I just want to see my family. I have no drugs inside of me."

"I'm treated like meat in slaughter, receiving words of insult and contempt from agents. You have to get down three times according to prison rules. But that's not what happens, because she makes me go squat, depending on the agent, five to six times, stating that she cannot see. Here comes the question: see what? I work and I feel totally useless in these situations, because even knowing my rights and the laws, hierarchy prevails, and within these places they are the ones dictating the rules."

"After the procedure was done, the official took my file, asked me to get dressed and takes me to the bathroom of the CDP. I lean against the wall and had to push for 20 minutes. I opened it, gave her toilet paper and coughed. Sobbing I begged for mercy and informed that I had absolutely nothing. Yet the questions were not over."

STAR

The above are accounts from women who have relatives in detention. These testimonials are found in the report from Conectas, an international human rights organization, delivered last week by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The document denounces a degrading situation prevailing in the Brazilian prison system: relatives of prisoners suffer hand search, inside their genitals, when visiting relatives. Not even pregnant women and infants escape. The practice also includes full nudity and forcing visitors to squat. It is known as "vexatious strip search." The organization will ask United Nations that Brazil put an immediate end to the practice.

The "vexatious strip search" is made in order to stop drugs, cell chips and other items prohibited in prisons from entering. But research conducted by the Criminal Justice Network, from which Conectas belong, discovered a curious situation.

Based on official documents provided by the very Department of Corrections of the State of São Paulo, it was found that only 0.03% of visitors carryied items considered prohibited. The research took into account data collected by the government between 2010 and 2013.

According to Conectas lawyer, Vivian Calderoni, considering that each of the nearly 500,000 prisoners in the country come from a family with at least three people, the universe of people who undergo this degrading treatment is around 1.5 million Brazilians.

For the lawyer, the abuse is used more in a way that it punishes prisoners, extending the penalty to people who have never suffered any conviction. "This will never help prisoners reintegrate to society. Rather, it feeds an indignation, resentment and hatred chain."

Facing othe absurdities that occur in jails and prisons in the country, this may seem a minor problem. But it is not. It hurts the rights and guarantees foreseen in the Constitution.

Parallel to the document submitted to the United Nations, a group of 89 entities linked to human rights is pressing the Senate to put in place a vote on a bill that ends strip search. The Senate president says the project "will have priority" on the agenda. We will see.

Translated by SIMONE PALMA

Read the article in the original language