Covid-19 could ignite Brazilian prisons’ powder keg

Tensions are growing higher within Brazilian prisons — and Covid-19 makes an already explosive environment all the more dangerous

Covid-19 is already promoting instability in prisons, says specialist
Puraquequara prison riot, on May 2. Photo: Chico Batata/Div.

On May 2, a riot took place at Manaus’ Puraquequara prison. Inmates held seven guards hostage for over five hours before the rebellion was put down by law enforcement — leaving 17 injured, but no deaths. Family members of the prisoners say they were protesting precarious conditions — the police claim they were trying to dig an escape tunnel. 

Three years ago, the state witnessed one of the most gruesome massacres ever recorded in Brazil. After a 17-hour rampage, 56 inmates were killed — many of whom had been decapitated and dismembered. A judge who negotiated the end...

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