University of São Paulo: Brazil spends almost four times more on the prison system compared to basic education

Data from the National Council of Justice (CNJ) collected in 2022 indicate that a prisoner costs, on average, R$ 1,800 monthly to Brazilian coffers. A basic education student – ​​according to information from the Fund for the Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and the Valorization of Education Professionals (Fundeb) – receives a minimum average annual investment of R$ 5,600 – around R$ 470.00 per month, a value four times lower. The monthly update on the cost of prisoners in Brazil is recent, and emerged after a study at the Faculty of Law of Ribeirão Preto (FDRP) at USP identified the lack of transparency in relation to information related to Brazilian prisons.

At the time, the group of researchers, led by Professor Cláudio do Prado Amaral, was already trying to define the amount spent on each incarcerated, however, of all the Brazilian states consulted during the research, only three responded to the requests, and none of them informed whether the numbers followed the parameters of the Ministry of Justice.

Listen, in the player below, to an interview by professor Cláudio do Prado Amaral and federal prosecutor José Rubens Plate about the average expenditure in Brazil with each prisoner.

According to José Rubens Plate, federal prosecutor who used the research, access to prison administration expenses is provided for in Resolution 6 of the National Council for Criminal and Penitentiary Policy (CNPCP) and was withheld from Brazilian citizens. “The problem was resolved after the conclusion of the first part of the research, whose results of the lack of transparency were forwarded directly to the Ministry of Justice.”

change of look
According to Professor Amaral, the comparison of values ​​destined for education and the prison system draws attention, but becomes even more relevant when associated with the desocializing character of the prison system. National and international surveys indicate that, in 90% of cases, an incarcerated person leaves the prison system with difficulties in performing daily activities, classified by the teacher as negative socialization.

“There is no transparency about spending on prisoners”, says researcher
Faced with this reality, the prosecutor argues that “Brazilian society needs to change the way it looks at prisons”, putting aside contempt and adopting a posture of social analysis of Brazilian prisons. This practice, according to Plates, enables discussions and proposals that contribute to an improvement in the prison system as a whole and, consequently, a better use of society’s public resources.

In the player below, listen to an interview by professor Cláudio do Prado Amaral and federal prosecutor José Rubens Plate about the lack of transparency of data on the prison system in Brazil.

Social participation in penitentiary policies
Cláudio explains that access to prison system data is essential to ensure society’s participation in the construction of public policies. The population can only question and demand changes from the government if they have access to the amounts spent on each incarcerated, a fundamental right of every citizen, he says.

For the professor, “research developed in the university and academic environment has the potential for a positive social impact”. From them, public policies can be planned and structured, highlighting the importance and role of what is produced at the University.

The research is from the USP Applied Prison Studies Group (Gecap), responsible for developing works that can contribute to the improvement of the Brazilian prison system and criminal justice.