A director of a women’s prison has been sacked after horrific footage emerged of cells infested with hundreds of rats.
Inmates at Porto Velho jail in north Brazil complained they had been bitten and attacked by violent rodents as prison staff highlighted the atrocious conditions following an inspection.
The damning video, released on Wednesday, caused uproar and forced authorities to hurriedly transfer the women to a newly-built jail, several months before the complex was due to be opened.
Grim images show dozens of huge rats scurrying freely around the prison courtyards, scaling walls, crawling over furniture, hiding under grates and scampering through the cells.
Prisoners spoke about their ordeal from behind bars and revealed how they have been living in squalid and ‘inhumane conditions’ for years.
“We know we are have been deprived of our liberty because we have made mistakes and we are paying for our crimes,” admitted one inmate who refused to be identified.
“But we are human beings, and the situation we are living in is inhumane. No animal would deserve to live in these conditions. We live side by side with rats, cockroaches and snakes.”
Another prisoner, who did not wish to be named, told of how she woke up terrified every night with the rodents scrambling over her.
“I’ve been bitten by rats many times,” she announced to the union representative filming the sub-standard surroundings.
“They enter the cells and attack us and eat our food. We live with rat droppings and rat urine. The smell is unbearable.
“We have tried cleaning the areas but the products we have are not strong enough to get rid of the vermin.
“Our situation is precarious because rats carry serious diseases. But we cannot kill them because there are too many and they keep coming back. We have complained so many times, but no one does anything about it,” the detainee lamented.
According to Singeperon, prison guards found working in the penitentiary ‘distressing’ and some members refused to patrol the unit for fear of their own health and safety.
Ronaldo Rocha, director of the union, said: “The rat infestation is not a recent phenomenon. The prison has been overrun with vermin for years. We decided to make the video to bring the situation to light.”
The director admitted the union filmed the shameful condition as a last resort, to force the state government to act and address the ‘violation of human rights in the prison.’
He revealed: “We warned Rondonia’s State Department of Justice (Sejus) many times about the invasion of rats in the courtyards and cells, but no measures were taken to solve the problem.
“Our prison officers were no longer prepared to work under these circumstances. The situation was getting worse and was not only worrying for our members but dire for the inmates who had no choice but to live in these conditions day in day out.”
Within hours of the scandal being exposed on Brazilian TV, the justice department confirmed Porto Velho’s prison governor had been dismissed from her post.
A Penal Executions Court judge ordered the jailhouse, which was built to hold 79 inmates but was overcrowded with 130 prisoners, to be immediately closed.
Instructions were given for all the prisoners to transferred within 48 hours to a new prison unit located some miles away.
In a statement, Sejus said: “Detainees are being moved to a new prison complex that is ready but not yet opened. It has capacity of 145 detainees.”
The organisation added that while the prison conditions had been unacceptable, it should be noted the ‘rat infestation occurred in the female correctional unit because the operation was housed in old buildings’.
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