Bolsonaro lifts mandatory use of masks in prisons

Brazil's Bolsonaro lifts mandatory use of masks in prisons
Inmate manufacturing a facemask. Photo: Joel Rodrigues/Agência Brasília

President Jair Bolsonaro had decided to veto another two articles of the law making the use of masks mandatory in public spaces. This time, he lifted the obligation for mask use within prisons. Moreover, public institutions, commercial sites, and public entities will no longer be forced to display warnings raising awareness to the use of personal protective equipment.

This creates a rather strange situation, as inmates in many prison facilities around Brazil are producing masks they will probably never wear themselves.

Mr. Bolsonaro said states and municipalities have the autonomy to impose those measures if they see fit, in yet another example of the president’s laissez-faire approach to Covid-19. He has been the biggest opponent to social isolation and claims people should go about their business as usual.

Mask regulations for prisons: risks to inmates and guards

Brazilian prisons and jails are considered to be breeding grounds for Covid-19. Largely overcrowded and often with paltry living conditions, correctional facilities offer little to no possibility of social isolation. As The Brazilian Report wrote in April, Brazil has 750,000 inmates cramped in jails that have a combined capacity to house only 460,000 people — according to June 2019 data. 

Official figures have the Covid-19 mortality rate in prisons at least five times higher than among the outside population.

“The prison population is 30 times more likely to contract tuberculosis. They are people under the responsibility of the state. All deaths from coronavirus within prison institutions that could have been prevented and were not, are the responsibility of the authorities,” Camila Prado, a professor at the Law School of the University of Brasília, told Brasília correspondent Renato Alves.

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