In 2021, 522 of 1.240 prisoners from Rio de Janeiro released as a result of temporary departures from Natal did not return to prison at the end of the established period. The fee of 42,09% of evasions far exceeded the percentages of escape this season in other states and the state’s own rate in 2019, which had been from 16,20%. In 2020 prisoners on temporary release throughout the year were allowed to stay at home, under house arrest.
The state of São Paulo granted 36.688 benefits and recorded 1.688 runaways in Natal de 2021. In this way, the São Paulo justice system released about twenty-nine times more prisoners compared to Rio de Janeiro, but recorded an escape percentage of 4,44% against more than 42 % in the neighboring state. The percentages in São Paulo are similar to those in other states: in Minas Gerais, 2.4% of prisoners released at Christmas and New Year’s 2020 did not return, in Maranhão it was 4.5% of evasions and in Mato Grosso do Sul were 3,25%.
At the end of 2021 a video in which activist and historian Suzane Jardim defends that the temporary release granted to prisoners who serve sentences in a semi-open regime are useful to reduce crime.
One of the main arguments presented by Suzane consists of a single piece of data, attributed to the São Paulo Penitentiary Administration Secretariat (SAP-SP), for which only 4.6% of the detainees released at a given opportunity, totaling 688 criminals, would have taken advantage of a temporary exit to escape the prison system. The numbers, in the historian’s judgment, would be insignificant given the benefit resulting from the maintenance of the social integration of the detainees.
The reading of these numbers, however, can be more complex and depend on the crossing of other data. Who are the prisoners who take advantage of temporary exits to escape? Is it possible to draw characteristic profiles of detainees who return and those who do not return after temporary departures? How do the numbers of escapes at each exit accumulate over the various opportunities granted each year?
“Thrilled” x “Criminals”
A A report by Gazeta do Povo asked these questions to several prison administration bodies, to criminal execution courts in some states and also talked to the legal director of the Union of São Paulo Penitentiary Agents (Sindasp-SP), Márcio Assunção.
He says, from his experience of 20 years as a professional and trade union representative, that the majority of inmates are occasional delinquents, people who do not have a strong link with organized crime, who often have a lawful means of support, who have committed unlawful acts because of a specific circumstance or a momentary temptation. Márcio refers to this group as “emocionados”. In opposition to these, the prison guard describes a second group, which he calls “criminals”: they are people whose main survival activity consists of illicit activities and who have a well-established link with organized crime.
According to Márcio, who worked for eight years in a detention center and for 752 years in a prison, these detainees classified by him as “criminals”, prisoners with a more solid bond with the organized crime and more deeply rooted in illicit practices, are the majority of those who typically do not return to their cells , after the deadlines defined by the judiciary.
The description presented by the prison guard adds complexity to the reading of the numbers. It is possible that the approximately 4% of criminals who escape each time in São Paulo are made up mostly of the most dangerous and repeat offenders among the prisoners benefited. The mere percentage reading of fugitives can hide variables that would depend on a more in-depth analysis of the data, with a – for example – a statistical breakdown of the crimes for which the benefited detainees, and those who flee during the benefit, comply.
We asked the prison administration bodies of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Rondônia, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais and Bahia about the criminal profile of beneficiaries and fugitives as to the years of conviction and/or type of crime committed.
Of all the departments contacted, only the São Paulo Department of Penitentiary Administration was able to inform the most common crimes for which beneficiaries and fugitives through the temporary exits respond.
According to the ministry, most of the detainees who took advantage of the last 5 temporary exits granted by the state to escape are responsible for the crimes of trafficking, robbery, theft and murder. In the Christmas output of 2021, for example 35,13% From prisoners who did not return were responsible for trafficking; 32, 6% responded for robbery; 9,36% responded for theft and 9,97% were murderers. These are also the crimes with the highest number of detainees benefited. For the calculation, in the case of detainees serving convictions for various crimes, the crime with the highest conviction was considered.
The Law 13964/19, popularly referred to as the Anti-Crime Law, which came into force in 2020, limits the granting of the benefit to those convicted of crimes such as robbery and homicide, but only in some specific circumstances, such as robbery involving a firearm or qualified homicide, and only for those crimes. Furthermore, as the rule is not retroactive and does not apply to those convicted of previous crimes, its effects on the demography of prisoners benefiting from temporary releases and fugitives are not yet observed in the current data.
Bodies do not know how to inform the annual number of beneficiaries
If considering the numbers of detainees, regardless of the number of times they were released, how many percent of prisoners released over the course of 2021 escaped the prison system by this means? This is a question for which none of the prison administration or penal enforcement bodies we consulted have an answer.
The State of São Paulo had 32.431 Temporary departures in May , 20.551 in June, 34.577 in September and 42 .688 in December, totaling 135.247 benefits. There were 6.688 leaks, which corresponds to 4, 135 % of evasions if we consider all the benefits granted.
However, these numbers may hide a higher percentage of escapes if considered the number of detainees benefited. The State of SP granted four exits throughout the year and the same prisoner may have benefited from several of them, so the number of prisoners benefited may be much smaller than the number of benefits reported. And the percentage of fugitives, much higher.
To investigate the hypothesis, individualized data would be needed, so that a prisoner who left in May, June, September and December would be counted once and not four . In this way, we would know, among all prisoners who received at least one benefit, how many took advantage of one of the exits to never return. The percentage may approach 20%.
SAP-SP, however, reported not knowing the exact number of prisoners released during the year: “The control of temporary releases carried out by the Ministry counts the number of prisoners who enjoyed the benefit in each of the periods. There is no survey that indicates whether the same prisoner was contemplated one or more times throughout the year.”, the agency replied. the total number of beneficiaries in 2021 recommended that the matter be addressed to the Court of Criminal Executions, of the TJRJ. The TJRJ press office, in turn, countered by informing that “the question about the number of detainees released on temporary release is made by Seap based on a decision” and that “Control of entry and exit of detainees is done by Seap .”
The prison administration bodies of the other states also denied having control over the exact number of inmates benefited annually or did not respond to the questioning.
The representative of Sindasp -SP, on the other hand, says that most prisoners who escape on an exit do not return, and those who return tend to lose the right to future exits. Márcio told us that it sometimes happens that a prisoner, having not returned on the scheduled date, voluntarily presents himself at a later date. He says that this occurs more often when the prisoner has a strong religious and/or family bond, and is encouraged by relatives or priests to come forward, even if belatedly. In Márcio’s experience, however, this is quite rare.
Gazeta do Povo also requested percentage data on prisoners who, not having returned on a date established by the court, they showed up late. The various agencies contacted also do not have this data.
As for the number of detainees who were arrested once again during the temporary release, the São Paulo Penitentiary Administration Department was once again the only one who knew how to inform the data. On Christmas leave of 2021, 135 of 32.688 were arrested for committing of new crimes. In 2020 they had been 99 in a universe of 16.532.