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Cablegate: Juvenile Detention in Brazil: A Look At

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: On November 24, Poloffs called on Iolete
Carvalho, the Director of Brasilia's juvenile detention
facility, CAJE. CAJE houses 375 youths who range from 12-
20 years of age. Director Carvalho answered Poloffs'
questions and gave a thorough tour of the physical plant.
Despite numerous unflattering press reports and scathing
criticism by Federal District Representative Erika Kokay,
Poloffs found the facilities, as presented, to be
acceptable. Carvalho appeared, however, reluctant to
discuss the problematic elements of running CAJE such as
the violence so prevalent in Brazilian detention
facilities. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) Director Carvalho eagerly presented Poloffs with
statistics and facts related to her institution. Like most
detention centers in Brazil, CAJE is overcrowded, housing
375 youths (26 of whom were females) even though its
official capacity is 196. The facility keeps a mere 15
guards on staff, none of whom carry weapons more lethal
than a police baton. Detainees serve a maximum of three
years, with the average stay lasting around 2.5 years. The
most common offense, according to Carvalho, is violent

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3. (U) A key source of criticism of CAJE has been Federal
District Representative Erika Kokay (PT). Following a
request for more information on CAJE, Rep. Kokay's office
sent Poloffs an acerbic dossier faulting CAJE for, inter
alia, an inadequate physical plant, gross understaffing,
rampant violence, and unsatisfactory treatment of mentally
ill internees. Most recently, alleges the Representative,
a mentally ill detainee slipped through the bureaucratic
cracks and committed suicide in September 2004 by hanging
himself. The compilation of press clippings,
correspondences, and studies presented to Poloffs also
details a rash of five internee deaths (some violent), all
of which occurred in late 2003-early 2004. These deaths
took place before Carvalho's tenure began in March of


4. (U) In contrast with the overcrowding, understaffing,
and danger, Poloffs observed a well-functioning facility
that, at least during the visit, appeared to be orderly and
decent. The detainees, explained the Director, divide
their days between classes, sports, and professional
development. Professional development activities witnessed
included auto mechanics, computer technology, and the
culinary arts. Poloffs also observed classes and physical
activity, both of which appeared to proceed satisfactorily.
Between scheduled activities, the youths are allotted free
time in their respective wings. Carvalho estimated that
detainees spend approximately nine hours a day engaged in
activities outside their cells.

5. (U) Health facilities seemed adequate and included
several beds and an in-house dentist. CAJE, noted Carvalho
employs two doctors who work normal hours along with a
cadre of nurses who provide 24 hour on-call medical
support. The Director also pointed out that CAJE provides
a staff of 22 social workers and 15 psychologists to
address mental health issues.

6. (U) Internees receive visits from parents and other
loved ones once a week. CAJE, according to the Director,
not only encourages, but claims to mandate such visits to
ensure that the detainees will have stable relationships to
support their post-CAJE lives. Those wishing to make phone
calls must first interface with staffers, who dial and
cross-check numbers with available lists of family members
before handing over the receiver.


7. (U) CAJE Director Carvalho, who has occupied her
current position for only eight months, seemed unwilling to
discuss the institution's dangerous reputation. She was,
though, clearly eager to refute the unsavory image put
forth by Rep. Kokay and fomented in the media, a process
which took place before her tenure. Indeed, the facility
presented to Poloffs seemed unexpectedly acceptable,
especially given the dismal reputation of Sao Paulo's FEBEM
system of juvenile detention (see 2003 Human Rights Report
for Brazil).

8. (U) COMMENT: CAJE, like any Brazilian governmental
appendage, must contend with scant resources and the
caprice of political currents. While harsh criticism of
CAJE is partially the product of a proliferate media and
the efforts of Rep. Kokay, the claims of understaffing and
overcrowding certainly merit attention and remedy. Given
that the violence documented by Rep. Kokay and her staff
occurred before Director Carvalho's taking office, it could
be the case that CAJE has moved on to more decent and
stable footing. Whether or not CAJE can continue to
reflect this assessment remains to be seen. END COMMENT.

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