Few people have heard about the Community Council of the Criminal Justice Court, one of the institutions that is responsible in ensuring that convicts fulfill their sentences adequality. Established in the 1984 Criminal Justice Law, judges can establish community councils. However, in a country with 1,500 prison units, there are less than 400 such councils nationwide. The Community Council in the city of Taubaté is one of the most active ones, and has recently gotten a website in order to share about its projects as well as to attract new volunteers and donations. The website address is www.ccep-taubate.org.br:
The council works in 11 penitentiaries spread out in the Paraíba Valley and the northern state coast, hosting almost 15,000 male and female detainees, including both convicts and those awaiting trial. Active since 2013, the council comprises volunteers that visit the prison units, supporting the judge’s work, and conducting several resocialization projects such as vegetable gardens, choir, among others. The success of the council’s work is due to the fomenting of the human contact between inmates and the local community as well as due to the council’s work in supervising that sentences are being fulfilled properly with respect to human rights.
The exponential increase of the prison population in the country accompanies the growth of violence and the homicide rate. Statistics show that the increase in the number of inmates does not help this scenario either. On the contrary, by promoting the daily contact between people that have committed small crimes with members of criminal factions, the prison system contributes to the increase of violence on the streets. In theory, prisons should serve the purpose of rehabilitating individuals that commit crimes. However, the recidivism index bordering 80% shows that the Brazilian prison system is a fundamental component in the rise of violence in the country, as it happens in many other countries in Latin America.
The best example of the importance of community councils to revert this negative scenario is found in the task forces that council members conduct in order to collect information of inmates, and thus speed up the processing of their cases, which has significantly contributed to the decrease of the prison population. Since 2017, those task forces have helped expedite more than 9,000 cases in the region.
A few states in Brazil, such as Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Goiás, have a large number of active community councils. However, other states, such as Amazonas, have no councils whatsoever. The creation of a council depends on the initiative of a judge that is responsible for the criminal justice court of the region. The law provides, in principle, that a community council be composed of at least one representative of the commercial association or local manufacturing segment, one lawyer appointed by the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), a public prosecutor and a social worker. Alternatively, the judge may appoint the members of the council. Inmates’ relatives and representatives of other sectors can also comprise the council. The website of the Community Council of the Criminal Justice Court of Taubaté provides a manual of how to create a council and offers everyone the possibility of volunteering in one its projects.