In Brazil, loved ones may be far away but remain supportive

In the largest prison in the state of Minas Gerais, female prisoners receive all sorts of support. This help is dependent on the relationships that the women maintained on the outside before their incarceration and is complemented by inmates’ web of support.

The relationship between life on the inside and outside is of central importance in understanding how detention is organised in Brazil. It is even a matter of survival, both physical and emotional. What is the relationship of female prisoners with the outside world? Is it one of support, restructuring, abandonment? Ludmila Ribeiro, a sociologist, and Natália Martino, a doctoral student in political science, are both researchers at the Centre for crime and public safety studies (Centro de estudos de criminalidade e segurança pública, CRISP) at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

They took an interest in the lives of women serving time in Belo Horizonte (in the state of Minas Gerais). Prison Insider asked them three questions.

In many cases, these women were first pregnant when they were 12 or 13 years old. They have multiple children and each child further complicates their situation.

Rather than weekly visits, we see parcels and letters being sent and the cost of telephone calls from the prison being covered.

The external networks of these women are often very influential. Their members are heavily involved in providing help and support during the difficult period that is incarceration.

The article

Ludmila Ribeiro, Natália Martino, “Flows in a Female Penitentiary: Manoeuvring between Absence and Presence of Family Members” (2021). Available online.