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Governance and Legitimacy in Brazilian Prison: From Solidarity Committees to the Primeiro Comando Da Capital (PCC) in São Paulo

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)

Abstract

Prisons became an object of increasing interest for the Social Sciences during the 20th century. In the 1950s, several aspects were the subject of academic reflection, especially in the North American literature. A central issue that many of the axes of reflection on prisons have in common is how imprisoned individuals have adapted to disciplinary mechanisms-as well as resisted these mechanisms-through complex strategies that make use of individual or group actions. In this text we propose an analysis of prison governance based on the Brazilian experience and on the study of two political and institutional contexts in different periods, each of which is characterized by the existence of groups of prisoners claiming to represent the prison population through different discursive, normative and ideological frameworks. On the one hand, we have the context of prisoners being recognized by the authorities as legitimate interlocutors in the handling of prison matters. On the other hand, we have groups of prisoners whose authority is founded on the codes and logic of the criminal world, without the support of and explicit recognition by institutional authorities. To a large extent, the latter groups are founded on a discourse of opposition to the State.

The current work is part of the “Building Democracy Daily: Human Rights, Violence, and Institutional Trust” Project of the Center for the Study of Violence at the University of São Paulo, financed by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Understood here in its broader meaning of exercising power in this specific social space.

  2. 2.

    In Brazil, prison administration is the responsibility of the states. The state of São Paulo has the largest prison population in the country, accounting for about one-third of Brazilian prisoners.

  3. 3.

    The date in brackets refers to the original publication date. This date is used in the first reference, but in subsequent citations only the date of the publication used by the authors is used.

  4. 4.

    This authoritarian legacy is due in large part to the military regime that ruled over Brazil from 1964 to 1983.

  5. 5.

    The committees were very active at two prison facilities: Penitenciária do Estado and Penitenciária de Araraquara.

  6. 6.

    Regarding the accusations against Serpentes Negras and their role in destabilizing the experiment of Solidarity Committees, see Higa (2017) and Higa and Alvarez (2019).

  7. 7.

    José Márcio Felício dos Santos, in a statement to the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission to investigate arms smuggling, on 5/17/2005, p. 56. Geleião, as he is known, was one of the founders of the PCC, and was the group’s main leader until 2002, along with César Augusto Roriz, known as Cesinha.

  8. 8.

    For a discussion about the impact of RDD on prison dynamics, see Dias (2009).

  9. 9.

    In terms of measures to deal with the PCC, in addition to creating these punishments in the penal system, we highlight the moves by the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Civil Police to dismantle call centers and block hundreds of checking accounts that were used by the gang to move money.

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Correspondence to Camila Nunes Dias .

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Dias, C.N., Salla, F., Alvarez, M.C. (2022). Governance and Legitimacy in Brazilian Prison: From Solidarity Committees to the Primeiro Comando Da Capital (PCC) in São Paulo. In: Sozzo, M. (eds) Prisons, Inmates and Governance in Latin America. Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-98602-5_2

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