Brazil: prisons without guards offer inmates path to recovery

Facilities run by a local non-profit focus on rehabilitation over punishment, in a method that has expanded worldwide.

APAC, a Brazilian non-profit that advocates for better treatment of prisoners, has a unique model in the dozens of facilities it manages across the country. Inmates oversee security and discipline, make their own food and wear their own clothes. Referred to as “recovering persons”, prisoners are called by their name rather than by a number. The more than 400 inmates in the Sao Joao del-Rei APAC facility have the keys to their own cells – and unlike in a typical prison, there are no armed guards monitoring their movements.

In APAC prisons, cells appear clean, food is fresh and education is part of the rehabilitation programme. In terms of recidivism, while the Brazilian state reports its national average at 39 percent after five years – a number much lower than the 80 percent cited by international observers – APAC says its facilities have a rate of around 14 percent.