Ex-inmate Emerson Ferreira’s success story of being able to get his civil rights restored was featured in the news program SPTV, an affiliate of Globo TV in Mogi das Cruzes, a city in the greater São Paulo area. Emerson was released after serving five years in prison for drug trafficking. However, as it happens with many ex-inmates, his civil rights of voting and holding a work permit were revoked from him until he paid a high-value debt to the State – in his case, he was due to pay about BRL 17,000.00 (USD 4,500.00). Emerson still has to pay the debt, but at least he has already won his rights as a citizen.
Legal financial obligations bind ex-inmates with the duty of paying the penitentiary fund a certain amount of money. Nonetheless, placing ex-inmates in the list of active debtors to the State and revoking their civil rights condemn them to a fate of employment. This penalty is nonsensical since it pushes ex-inmates right back into crime as they, not being allowed to enter the formal job market, seek alternatives to earn a livelihood.
In spite of those difficulties, due to Emerson’s personal efforts and the support of Humanitas360 and others, he was able to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and create the NGO Reflexões da Liberdade (Reflections on Freedom), which is dedicated to preventing young people from disenfranchised communities to engage in crime. Lawyer Luís Fernando Beraldo, from the Podval Law Firm, submitted Emerson’s case to the Electoral Court, claiming that debts to the government cannot, according to the Brazilian Constitution, keep citizens from having their voter’s card, and thus being able to exercise their full civil rights.
With the court ruling in favor of Emerson, the ex-inmate is now able to apply for the documents he needs to exercise his citizenship and profession, which include his voter’s card, work permit, Psychology Council registration and passport. The case opens legal precedent for other ex-inmates seeking to get their civil rights restored in the country.