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This paper is about a situation that perhaps represents one of the most radical and profound challenges to the reality of the consensus that contemporaneous western societies – and Brazilian society in particular – claim they share regarding the equality and essential or ontological dignity of mankind. It is an attempt to investigate how Brazilian society, immersed in a context of fear as a result of urban violence, deals with its prison population.[1] This paper is divided into three main parts. Part one deals with a situation of fact: traditional, ongoing, generalized, serious and practically institutionalized violation of the fundamental rights of prison inmates inBrazil. This situation of fact easily leads one to conclude that inmates inBrazil are not treated like human beings (and are probably not even considered human beings).

[1] As has been repeated for many decades, it seems that one of the most revealing tests regarding the civility of a society is really how it treats prisoners and the helpless (the aged and those with special needs, among others).


Paper originally presented at SELA 2010, Insecurity, Democracy, and Law, in Santiago de Chile as part of the panel on “Imprisonment.”