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Q&A: Why Is Prison Violence So Bad in Brazil?

By Robert Muggah, Carolina Tabuada and Dandara Tinoco

Published on Americas Quarterly

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil has struggled to contain prison violence for decades. A riot at the Altamira prison in Pará state on July 29, which left at least 62 inmates dead, revealed just how much work still needs to be done.

Fixing Brazil’s dysfunctional prison system is a complex challenge, tied to the social fabric of the country itself. Yet both short- and long-term solutions do exist. Here’s a look at the root causes of Brazil’s prison violence, how the current government is approaching the problem, and what can be done to turn the tide.

What is driving prison violence in Brazil?

Brazil has the third largest prison population on the planet after the U.S. and China. According to the National Justice Council (CNJ), it registers as many as 812,000 incarcerated people in state prisons, while there is officially space for fewer than 418,000. The prison population is also growing fast – about a three-fold increase since 2000. There are multiple reasons why Brazil is home to the most violent prisons in the world. One of them is that its corrections facilities are severely overcrowded and subject inmates to inhumane conditions.

Preserving Brazil’s Sovereignty Means Taking Responsibility for the Amazon

By Robert Muggah and Adriana Abdenur

Published on Global Observatory (IPI)

The world is waking-up to the climate emergency. But our prolonged slumber is going to cost us dearly. The latest scientific findings indicate that our planet is approaching multiple “tipping points” that could cause irreversible and catastrophic changes in temperature, ecosystems and biodiversity. One country that could help decisively shape the future of the global climate is Brazil, home to over 40 percent of the world’s tropical forests and 20 percent of its fresh water supplies. Once a promising player in environmental conservation, Brazil’s stance has changed dramatically as far-right nationalist president, Jair Bolsonaro, and the pro-agriculture and beef lobbies that back him, are convinced that the climate agenda is a conspiracy, driven by hidden interests from abroad. All the while, the forests are burning at rates not seen since 2010.

A tricky question facing the international community is how to conserve global public goods such as forests in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia at a time when multilateral cooperation is waning. When it comes to reversing climate change, it is impossible for any one single state to deliver results on their own. Up until now, governments prefer to establish non-binding international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the Kyoto Protocol. Businesses have called for market-based mechanisms intended to reward reductions in greenhouse gases and reforestation efforts. Meanwhile, many environmental and indigenous activists—and a growing number of socially-minded businesses and average citizens—are adamant that it is only through direct actions such as protesting, campaigning, boycotting, and divestment that governments and businesses will agree to reverse anthropogenic climate change.

Cities are easy prey for cybercriminals. Here’s how they can fight back

Published in the World Economic Forum

Make no mistake: the world is in the early stages of a techno-war against city governments and urban infrastructure. And while some cities have bolstered their capabilities to patch their vulnerabilities, they are entirely unprepared for the scale of cyberthreats that are coming.

Digital strikes are already coming hard and fast. In 2018, a massive ransomware attack launched by Iranian hackers shuttered Atlanta’s city hall for five days. This, the largest cyber breach recorded by a US city, disrupted police services, the processing of court cases, payment of parking tickets, business licenses and water bills, and even the nation’s busiest airport. In Baltimore, ransomware attacks in 2018 and 2019 shut down most of the city’s servers and paralyzed its 911 emergency call centre. And it’s not just big US cities on the front-line. Hundreds of smaller ones have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoin ransoms to regain access to their own systems, including 22 towns in Texas last month.

The scope of the cyber threat to cities is becoming clearer. According to industry experts, more than 70 percent all reported ransomware attacks in the U.S. target state and local governments. At least 180 public safety call centers were also targeted in the last two years. Cyber criminals are deploying distributed denial of service attacks, ransomware and other off-the-shelf hacker tools to interrupt and burgle municipal networks. Their digital arsenals are sourced from the Deep Web and their weapons are fully automated, meaning attacks can run 24/7. The impacts of the cyber threat should not be taken lightly.