When Covid-19 reached Brazilian favelas, we reported on the risks for low-income populations who live in poorly-urbanized, densely-populated areas, where social isolation is often an impossibility. But no area is potentially more favorable for the widespread transmission of the novel coronavirus as Brazilian prisons — once described by a former Justice Minister as “dungeons,” after he said he would rather die than spend a night in a Brazilian cell.
As of June 2019, Brazil had 750,000 inmates — 36 percent of them still in pre-trial detention — cramped in jails that have, combined, the capacity to house only 460,000 people.
Mass incarceration has exploded over the past 20 years. In 2000, the country had “only”