Afraid of Covid-19, prisoners in Manaus riot

prison riot manaus
Police storms Manaus jail after riot. Photo: Marcelo Camargo/ABr

Manaus has become the Brazilian example of a city collapsed by the #coronavirus crisis. On top of the crisis, the city is now dealing with a prison riot today. The inmates have taken seven guards hostages — but so far no casualties have been reported. Prisoners’ family members say the riot is a protest against precarious conditions — and fear of Covid-19

As journalist Brenno Grillo reported, experts fear that jails and prisons in Brazil — where social distancing is impossible due to overcrowding — will become breeding grounds for the coronavirus. As of June 2019, Brazil had 750,000 inmates — 36 percent of them still in pre-trial detention — crammed in jails meant to house only 460,000 people.

Brazilian prisons are crowded cesspools of human rights violations — a former Justice Minister once remarked that he’d rather die than spend a night inside a penitentiary. Our Explaining Brazil podcast discussed with Robert Muggah — a specialist in cities, security, migration and new technologies — how things got so bad. You can listen to that episode here: