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
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 28, 2014 -- Updated 1847 GMT (0247 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 28, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 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