The number of people behind bars in Brazil climbed to 515,482 in 2012, a 74 percent increase from 2005, the government said in a report released Wednesday.
That total included 1.5 times as many blacks as whites, according to the document, “Map of Incarceration: The Youth of Brazil.”
Afro-Brazilians accounted for 58.4 percent of the prison population in 2005 and 60.8 percent by 2012, even though blacks make up less than 8 percent of Brazil’s nearly 203 million inhabitants.
During the period studied, the majority of people in Brazil’s prisons and jails were between the ages of 18 and 24 and most had not completed primary school.
“The profile of the prison population makes evident that penal selectivity falls harder on specific segments (youths and blacks), who tend to commit minor economic crimes,” the study said.
Noting that almost half of all inmates are serving sentences of eight years or less, the authors say 18.7 percent of convicts would be eligible for non-custodial penalties, representing an opportunity to ease prison overcrowding through alternative sentencing.
International organizations have denounced the chronic overcrowding in Brazilian prisons, a problem that has led to deadly riots and uprisings.
Besides criticizing the high proportion of inmates who are still awaiting trial, the report cites “deficiencies in the exercise of the right to a defense and in the oversight function of the Attorney General’s Office.”