Article: “Without proposals for public security, senators exchange the Law for penal populism”

Article: “Without proposals for public security, senators exchange the Law for penal populism”

By Patrícia Villela Marino

For those who dedicate themselves to thinking about society’s problems and working towards its improvement, a maxim needs to be followed: there is no easy solution to complex problems. Faced with the crisis in Brazilian public security, the National Congress ignores this elementary idea and embraces penal populism.

The most recent victim of this type of stance, which bets all its chips on media punitivism, is the temporary release of imprisoned people, known as “saidinhas” or “saidões”. Provided for in Brazil’s National Prison Law, the resocialization mechanism was restricted by the Federal Senate to the point of its decharacterization, in a bill that now returns to the Chamber of Deputies.

Without proposals for the security impasse, this group of senators seems willing to ignore the Constitution, academic research and human rights to offer society a superficial and spectacular response, converting historical prejudices into public policy. They also ignore the work of bodies such as the National Council for Criminal and Penitentiary Policy, of which I am currently a member.

Linked to the Ministry of Justice, the CNPCP prepared the end-of-year pardon in 2023, then approved by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. I proudly say that I collaborated with this team of committed jurists and researchers to formulate a balanced text anchored in the Constitution – and which, without confusing guarantees with benevolence, also makes no concessions to the easy discourse of criminal conservatism.

The senators who today are against temporary releases choose serious and unfortunate cases, such as those explored exhaustively on social media and in part of the press, and transform these exceptions (which can and should be analyzed rigorously) into the rule. The benefit becomes the great villain to be fought, at the same time that the potential for transformation it can have in the lives of people trying to regain their citizenship is ignored.

The temporary release is part of a logic of gradual reintegration of imprisoned people into society, according to the progression of the regime they comply with. As the Brazilian law provides, the benefit can be authorized for those who are in a semi-open regime with specific purposes: visiting family, studying and participating in activities “that contribute to the return to social life”. There are also conditions that must be observed, such as good behavior, and imposed limits, such as automatic revocation in the case of crimes committed during the period.

Serving a sentence cannot be the end of a person’s life. This is a transitory circumstance. And as we do not have life sentences in Brazil, people in prison need to be prepared to leave – better and in a position to rebuild their lives with autonomy. Ensuring that this return happens in the best way possible is the responsibility of the State and society as a whole.

As president of the Humanitas360 Institute, an organization that works to reduce violence and promote citizenship among vulnerable populations, especially in the prison system, I see firsthand the potential of temporary releases. I’m talking about women who are now free, working and taking care of their families.

When they were imprisoned, they received multidisciplinary care from the institute, consisting of legal guidance, psychosocial support and professional training. When allowed to leave temporarily, they embraced the benefit as an opportunity to strengthen personal and professional ties. This was an indispensable stage in the life that, now free, they continue to build, day after day, back into society.