In partnership with UN agencies, pre-trial detention hearings receive social assistance services

Over 750 thousand pre-trial detention hearings were held in Brazil from 2015 to 2020. The initiative foresees that every arrested person must be presented to a judicial authority within 24 hours, as stated in Resolution n. 213/2015 of the National Council of Justice (CNJ). 

Pre-trial detention hearings are an indispensable tool for analysis of legality and the need to maintain the prisons until judgment. According to the National Penitentiary Department (DEPEN), at least 30% of the more than 745 thousand people currently deprived of liberty in Brazil are provisional prisoners.

Since 2019, the CNJ has worked in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support the courts in strengthening and expanding the custody hearing throughout the country. This is one of 28 simultaneous actions developed by the Fazendo Justiça Programme in order to overcome structural challenges in the context of deprivation of liberty, a programme supported by DEPEN.

One of the main results of this effort is the institutionalization of the Custody Services (Apecs), already present in 20 states. The CNJ's initiative invests in expanding the range of services focused on social protection already offered in some states and the adoption of parameters that qualify the services through the stimulation of networking and a restorative approach, articulating access to services aimed at care, citizenship and social inclusion. In 2020, the CNJ formalized the institutionalization of the Apec model in the states of Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Sergipe and Alagoas. The initiative to expand the service will continue in the first half of 2021.

Criminal alternatives - The methodology of the Custody Service is based on the CNJ Resolution 288/2019, which defines the institutional policy of the Judiciary for the application of criminal alternatives, and also in the formation of networks of services through agreements with public agencies, universities and civil society. The strategy to strengthen the Apecs relies on the support of technical consultants of the UNODC allocated to the 27 units of the federation through the Fazendo Justiça programme to support the local judiciary in the construction of work flows and proposals for cooperation agreements.

The initiative has expanded the number of courts that now offer social services before and after the pre-trial detention hearings and also in the universal modality, i.e., for all persons with release permits - prison relaxation, provisional release with or without caution, house arrest or electronic monitoring. In June 2019, only two states offered universal pre-audience care. Currently, the initiative is already adopted by 10 states: Acre, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Paraná, Piauí, Roraima and Sergipe.

In the case of post-audience care, there was universal offer in only six federal units and, selectively, in three others. Today, the procedure already reaches 20 states, and in 14 the care is available to all people with release license - as adopted by the states of Alagoas, Amazonas, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Roraima, Rio Grande do Sul and Sergipe. Another six offer post-audience care in specific cases, such as Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio Grande do Norte, Maranhão and São Paulo.

There are also advances in the availability of inputs such as clothing and food to people in custody - a service that was offered by seven states and currently reaches 14. The program also articulates the service in federal justice: the Federal Regional Court of the 3rd Region, with headquarters in Guarulhos (SP) and that attends the arrests in flagrante occurred in the biggest airport of the country, should inaugurate soon the Apec.

Operation - Participation in the Custody Service is voluntary. In the pre-audience custody service, a multidisciplinary team - which counts with at least one social service professional and one psychology professional - presents the objective of the service to the person who was arrested and collects information to identify immediate needs, such as communication with the family. In a second moment, an interview is conducted in which data on housing, documentation, family, work, income and access to social benefits are collected.

Based on this information, a report is prepared to help the magistrate analyse on maintaining the prison in flagrante, also pointing out referrals to identified situations of vulnerability, such as drug use, mental disorder or lack of contact with the family. The reports are also shared with the defense and the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The post-audience service aims to provide support to the person in custody on the follow-up processes, such as explaining the procedures for precautionary measures determined by the court or information on access to public policies.  "When an opportunity is given to the person, through a social and psychological service, it is also an opportunity that many times he/she didn't have," points out the judge coordinating the custody hearings in Cuiabá, Marcos Faleiro. 

This is also what the social worker Pablo Cardozo, from Apec of São Mateus district, in Espirito Santo, a state that has one of the oldest custody programmes in the country, defends. "It is possible to notice that the CNJ's resolution implementing the pre-trial detention hearings made the judicial decision more humane, in face of the consideration of the social aspects of the judgment obtained during the hearing", he said.


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