S. is in prison in Brazil. He voluntarily surrendered to the police in March 2017, while awaiting trial for acts committed in 2011. Since March 14, 2017, he has been detained at the Campinas Prison in the State of Sao Paulo. He sends us photos (at the bottom of the page) and describes to us what he sees, how he is living, what he is thinking. Narrative.
"When I am released from prison, I do not know at all what I'm going to do. If I had not matured, I would start stealing again. Prison does not rehabilitate anyone, it only makes things worse, and just makes you feel even more hatred.”
I’ll tell you everything from the beginning, from my arrival at the police station to my transfer here to the Campinas Prison (State of Sao Paulo).
I surrendered to the federal police voluntarily, even though on the conviction record it says that I was arrested on the street. I spent 11 days at the police station, where there were sometimes up to 40 of us in the same cell. There was only one hole in the ground for our needs. And we were given only rice to eat.
On 14 March, 2017, I was transferred to Campinas prison. Here, it is a semi-open prison regime and is the second-largest prison complex in Latin America.
Normally, I should have served my sentence by working during the day and returning to prison in the evening. But all the prisons in Sao Paulo-Capital were full and I was sent here to Campinas where I have to spend the whole day in prison[^campinas].
[^campinas]: S. was supposed to be working in Sao Paulo, but his imprisonment in Campinas makes that impossible because of the necessary travel time.
Here, in this prison, there are 13 units. Each unit houses approximately 200 prisoners. Some are full, there are not enough cells or beds for everyone. In mine, for example, there must be about 150 men who sleep on the floor in the visiting room (parlatorio), two to a mattress[^parla].
[^parla]: Common area, a kind of hall, apparently being used as a dormitory.
Every day we must wake up at four in the morning to queue up for breakfast, which is served at five o’clock. We have a piece of bread with coffee and milk. Lunch is served at 10:30. We have rice with red beans, sometimes minced meat or chicken. If we want to eat sweets or dessert, we must depend on our visitors who can bring us some… Dinner is served at 15:30. After that, we have nothing more to eat until 5:00 am.
We can leave our cell as soon as we wake up, but the doors are only open between 7am and 5pm. We can move about as we like. We can do sports but sometimes the prison guards come and take us away without telling us why.
Every day, at 6 am and at 6 pm, the counting takes place. We must go out of the unit otherwise we might be sent to the “pote” (2 square-meter dark cell with nothing but a hole in the ground for our needs[^QD]).
[^QD]: We think that this is likely a disciplinary unit.
They turn the water on between 4:00am and9:00am. We have water again for 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, in the evening. Therefore, we spend entire day without water. There is only one spigot where we can drink, but there is always an endless queue.
In my unit, there is a total of four cold-water showers and one hot-water shower. And there are about 300 of us. There are times when I go without a shower for two days.
Generally, I wake up, have my breakfast or not, walk, and talk with the few friends I have made here and that’s it.
Before, I used to work in the kitchen, I used to cook for prison officers. But one day when I arrived at work, my work card was no longer there. They told me they were going to give me another job but so far, nothing, I’m still waiting.
For every three days we work, we receive one day of sentence remission. We are also supposed to be paid a little for the work, but I do not know how much since I have still not received anything.
There is also a school here1. There are many people for limited space. And it is the same system as for work, every three days we study correspond to a day of sentence remission.
Here I have a cell phone every other day. I bought a cell phone together with another prisoner. I would like to have my own but for that, I would have to sell my half and add another 600 reals. In addition, a charger here costs 200 reals. The days when I do not have my cell phone, it’s horrible. Generally, I stay in bed and try to sleep but I think about life and can never sleep! So, I wait for my 3-4 friends, who do work. When they arrive, we talk a bit and at 5 pm, the unit closes. They return into their unit and I return into mine.
I usually go to bed around 9pm, depending on whether I have my cell phone or not. Yesterday, for example, I went to sleep at 1am because I had it.
My prison is not the worst. The First Command of the Capital (in Portuguese: “Primeiro Comando da Capital”, or “PCC”)2 is in charge here. They set up rules so that there is no confusion, no disputes. These rules must be followed.
The PCC supports us. You cannot insult or provoke anyone, otherwise they come and “set us straight”, and can also punish us.
When visitors/families come, we cannot walk around bare-chested. We must lower our head when visitors walk past, and cannot look anyone in the eyes. It is a habit that is not even practiced in the streets here in Brazil. For example, when my father comes to see me, my friends do not even look at him, unless I allow them to come and talk with us. When women come to visit, it is even stricter!
As for the prison guards, there are some who provoke and others who are quieter. The prison guards are afraid of the PCC and we are afraid of the guards. So that establishes a certain respect between the two sides. If you get smart with them, they can take you to the pote and you stay there as if you had been sent to the corner. There are some guards who treat us like garbage.
But it is a good thing the PCC manages the prison. Before, it was the law of survival. Now things are peaceful.
There are many people here who should already have been released but since they have no lawyer to defend them, they stay here. I was sentenced to three years in prison but I hope to be able to be released sooner.
I know that I did wrong, but I did not kill anyone, I did not point a gun at anyone. I could pay for my mistakes in a different way. I have been waiting for my trial since May 2011. I had found a job, I used to have my own bar, and now I have lost it. When I am released from prison, I do not know at all what I’m going to do. If I had not matured, if I had no family or friends, I would start stealing again. Prison does not rehabilitate anyone, it only makes things worse, it just makes you feel more hate. No one rebuilds himself in hell.
S., for Prison Insider
He began to study on 5 June, after giving this testimony ↩
First Command of the Capital (in Portuguese: the PCC) is a Brazilian mafia organization, very powerful in the prison environment. In 2006,the Monde Diplomatique estimated that the PCC dominated 130 of the 144 prison units in the State of Sao Paulo. ↩