Brazil to Temporarily Release Thousands of Prisoners for Father's Day

Brazilian federal law guarantees the right for prisoners to go free on specific holidays, regardless of the crime, once certain conditions are met. Authorities worry that it leads to a spike in crime.

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Brazil celebrates Father's Day this Sunday, and 170,000 prisoners could potentially be granted a reprieve from incarceration. 

Inmates from across Brazil will be released over the following days per a federal law which allows prisoners to go free for select holidays.

The law applies to prisoners that have completed between 1/6th and 1/5th of their sentence. Authorities rely on the good faith that inmates will return to the correctional facility when their allocated time outside of the prison walls expires.

Critics of the program say that the release of the prisoners causes a spike in crime and stretches the resources of the security apparatus. Mayors of several cities throughout Brazil said that they plan to increase the police presence over the Father's Day holiday.

In 2017 a Freedom of Information request filed by Brazilian news website UOL showed that in São Paulo 94.78% of prisoners return to correctional facilities of their own will. In the state, this means that of the roughly 26,000 prisoners released about 1000 will not return.

Several prisoners involved in high profile cases will be released. Elise Matsunaga, a woman, convicted in 2012 of murdering her husband and dismembering the corpse, and Alexandre Nardoni, a man convicted of throwing his daughter out of an apartment window to her death, will both be given their freedom for Father's Day.

Many supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that he is entitled to a semi-open regime allowing him to go home for holidays.

The Von Richtofen Family, Suzane is far left. (Photo: Released by authorities)

The Von Richtofen Family, Suzane is far left. (Photo: Released by authorities)

Last year Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, son of current President Jair Bolsonaro, championed "Project Richtofen," a bill that would prevent inmates convicted of murdering their parents from being granted temporary release on Mother's and Father's day. The law is named after Suzane von Richtofen, a woman convicted of planning the death of both of her parents in 2002 and serving 39 years in prison. She has been released for the holidays over the last four years.

In Altamira, a prison in the Brazilian state of Pará where 58 prisoners were murdered during a riot last week, there are 1,176 prisoners entitled to be temporarily released for Father's Day. According to the prison's superintendent, authorities will stagger the release with 300 granted freedom every Tuesday of August. Inmates are to be allowed seven days outside of the prison.

Brazil has the third-largest prison population in the world after the United States and China. Of the approximately 750,000 prisoners about a quarter are potentially eligible for release on special holidays.