Skip to main content

Gory decapitation video highlights Brazil's prison problems

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
January 7, 2014 -- Updated 1909 GMT (0309 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A newspaper releases a video of a gory scene
  • Three inmates were decapitated inside a jail
  • Brazil's jails face problems of violence and overcrowding

(CNN) -- It is a gruesome scene, even in a country that has seen its share of violence: three men, beheaded, with wounds peppering their bodies on all sides.

The most surprising part? The attack happened inside a jail.

A Brazilian newspaper on Tuesday released a video of this stomach-turning scene inside the Pedrinhas jail in Brazil's northeastern state of Maranhao.

The video was recorded on December 17, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported, describing how "other prisoners pose with the bodies, showing them off like trophies."

A union of jail workers gave the gory footage to the newspaper.

Many will view the video simply for the shock value, but behind this incident is a myriad of problems in the Brazilian penal system that allow an environment where something like this could unfold.

The Pedrinhas jail was already under scrutiny even before the video was made public.

A judge visited the jail just days after the decapitations and wrote a report demanding that the state government regain control of the inmate population.

In all, 62 inmates were killed inside Pedrinhas in 2013.

The judge, Douglas Martins, also documented violence against women, saying that female visitors were forced to have sex with the leaders of gangs inside the prison.

"The relatives of the powerless prisoners inside the jail are paying this price so that they won't be murdered," Martins told Brazil's judicial news agency. "It is a serious violation of human rights."

Overcrowding is also a problem at this jail. There are 2,196 inmates at Pedrinhas, which was built to hold only 1,770, according to state jail officials.

At the root of the violence at Pedrinhas is fighting between two rival factions -- inmates from the state's capital, and inmates from the interior of the state.

In response, the federal government this week reached an agreement with the state to transfer the leaders of these warring factions to federal prisons, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

The woes at Pedrinhas are not unique to Maranhao state.

Overcrowding and violence in jails are a problem in other parts of Brazil, as well as throughout Latin America.

Along with the video, Folha de Sao Paulo identified the three decapitated inmates: Diego Michael Mendes Coelho, 21; Manoel Laercio Santos Ribeiro, 46; and Irismar Pereira, 34.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0945 GMT (1745 HKT)
The lives of everyone close to Oscar Pistorius and the girl he killed are changed forever, his siblings say.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
Gene Simmons reflects on 40 years of KISS, and how even rock royalty needs sound business principles.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1033 GMT (1833 HKT)
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0915 GMT (1715 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT