The Military Police Department of São Paulo has a long history of brutality and racial profiling. An Amnesty International report points out that in São Paulo, “serious human rights violations continue to be reported, such as homicides committed by the police, as well as torture and mistreatment of people in custody. Young black men living in slums and poor areas on the outskirts of cities are more in danger.” No other episode, however, was as shocking as the Carandiru Prison Massacre, which took place in a São Paulo prison on October 2, 1992. On this now infamous day, at least 111 inmates were slaughtered over the span of half an hour by police agents.
The bloodiest episode in Brazilian penitentiary history began at 10 am when two inmates of Carandiru prison started a fight during a football match on the prison yard. The brawl quickly escalated into a riot. By 2 pm, prisoners were burning mattresses and blocking entrances to the cellblocks. State authorities attempted negotiations for about an hour, after which police troops stormed the prison and killed 111 inmates over the span of thirty minutes. Each was shot an average of five times, and not a single agent lost his life.
This brutal prison massacre went onto not only become a symbol of São Paulo’s police violence but also of impunity in Brazil. Twenty-four years after the massacre, not a single law enforcement agent has been arrested. Although 74 agents were convicted for murder and human rights violations – with a combined sentence of nearly 700 years of imprisonment – the verdict was appealed and the agents never served jail time. On Wednesday, Superior Court of Justice annulled their trial, which has brought the case against them back to square one.