Inside the PCC - The criminal faction,
"Inside the PCC - The criminal faction", which emerged in São Paulo, was the subject of Camila Dias' doctoral thesis at USP. PHOTO: Personal Archive

The publisher However has just released the book The War – Rise of the PCC and the world of crime in Brazil, written by journalist Bruno Paes Manso and sociologist Camila Nunes Dias. The two researchers and scholars in the field of public security and human rights used the bloody rebellions that took place in Brazil in recent years as a starting point for the book.

Read Maria Carolina Trevisan's interview with author Camila Nunes Dias, published in issue 114 of Brasileiros magazine, in February 2017:

The First Capital Command, PCC, was officially born in 1993, almost a year after the Carandiru Massacre, in which 111 prisoners at the São Paulo Detention House were killed. The group was constituted from a “statute” that defines principles and values, such as loyalty, respect and solidarity, and the fight for freedom, justice and peace, having rules and norms of conduct – “the Party does not admit that there is assault, rape or and extortion within the system” – and behavior – “never use the Party to resolve personal conflicts”.

What may seem like a code of ethics in the name of peace for the faction also indicates violent penalties for those who do not follow the precepts of the letter. “Life is paid for with life”, say the “brothers”, as the members refer to each other. The penalties for the disobedient can be public humiliation, physical assault and execution. “The higher the level and the more important its role in the organization's structure, the greater the risks that exclusion will be accompanied by execution”, explains Camila Caldeira Nunes Dias, professor of Public Policy at the Federal University of ABC and one of the most respected scholars in the country about the criminal group.

Camila says that the PCC was created in São Paulo and the governments underestimated the group's presence as an organization. “Governor Geraldo Alckmin said that São Paulo has nothing to do with this. Of course it does. The leaders are in São Paulo,” she says.

In her doctoral thesis From Spraying to the Monopoly of Violence: Expansion and Consolidation of the First Capital Command (PCC) in the São Paulo Prison System, at the Sociology department of the University of São Paulo, Camila defines three phases of the PCC: its constitution and its strengthening inside São Paulo prisons, between 1993 and 2001, which culminated in a mega-rebellion in 29 prisons; its strength in the streets, from 2001 to 2006, when a series of attacks on banks, supermarkets and pay planes showed the faction's power beyond the prison walls, in opposition to the denial of its importance by the security authorities; and the establishment of its power, starting in 2006, when a wide conflict between the Military Police and the PCC began, which assumed the hegemony of crime in the state of São Paulo.

Faced with the current massacres that have taken place in the country's penitentiaries, which have already killed 136 people in the first days of this year, Camila says that building prisons, as the government responds to conflicts, is not a solution.

For her, who is also part of the team of researchers at the Center for the Study of Violence at USP, a profound change in security policies is needed to resolve the prison crisis, and the path goes through extrication.

Brasileiros – In your doctoral thesis, you point out three phases of the PCC: the birth, the strengthening inside and outside the prisons and the establishment of its power against the security forces. Given the recent massacres in Manaus and Roraima, would it be possible to determine a fourth stage?
Camila Caldeira Nunes Dias – It is still risky to characterize this new phase more definitively, but it shows the nationalization of the PCC and the competitive disputes due to this nationalization. The characteristic is no longer the context of the state of São Paulo. When it spread across Brazil, other interests emerged and a conflict with other groups was generated. From recent conflicts, it is clear that the PCC is an organization with a national presence, but whose command center remains in São Paulo. The dispute over control and trafficking routes and the command of Brazilian prisons in other states also characterize this stage.

What role did the Carandiru Massacre play in the birth of the PCC?
The PCC emerged a year after the Massacre, in 1993, from a double homicide that took place at the Casa de Custódia de Taubaté, when the prisoners involved made a pact, an alliance of mutual protection. These events do not summarize the process, but they are important markers. The creation of the PCC is a result of the context of extreme violence that the São Paulo prison system was experiencing and the Carandiru Massacre is the most emblematic of these events, but it is not isolated. The incarceration policy is also decisive for its creation.

In terms of public security policy, since the Massacre until today, have there been any advances? Or have we been in the same place for 25 years?
Yup. The only change that we can identify, in São Paulo at least, is the greater care, if you can speak of care, of the Military Police in the invasion of prisons. It started to prevent the entrance of the corporation. The Penitentiary Administration Secretariat, which did not yet exist, underwent a process of making the penitentiary administration autonomous. Specific groups of officials were created, not only of correctional officers, but to escort prisoners, monitor the walls, and intervene. This is also a result of the Carandiru Massacre and is part of the consequences of the increase in the prison population in the state of São Paulo. The growth of the prison system required a separate administrative bureaucratic structure and the creation of specific careers to work in the system.

Regarding the massacres in Amazonas and Roraima, who is responsible for the deaths of detainees?
Regardless of who the murderers were, whether police officers, agents, employees or other prisoners, the responsibility for the life of the prison population rests with the State.

The role of the Military Police in these recent massacres is still unclear…
It is very disturbing to imagine how all those firearms ended up in the hands of the prisoners. They were long, big guns. Honestly, I do not see the conditions for this to have occurred without the facilitation or direct participation of public agents. State participation goes far beyond mere omission. These weapons do not enter a prison if there is no connivance, more robust participation by the State. We don't know the degree of this participation or how far it goes, if it is a corrupt official or something more structural.

What is the relationship between local politicians and criminal factions? 
I closely followed an investigation that took place in Amazonas, La Muralla, which revolved around the relations of the Northern Family with politicians. Everything suggests that this event in Manaus did not happen by chance. Furthermore, it seems that the company that managed the prison (Umanizzare, which privately manages the Anísio Jobim Prison Complex, the largest in Manaus) has a promiscuity in its relationship with the government, with the secretariat. Everyone wants to wash their hands. There is a letter informing the government and the secretariat, communicating the entry of firearms at the end of last year. There was the request to restrict. This whole set of data shows that there is a component, the size of which we do not yet know, of State participation.

Is it common to have agreements between governments and factions? 
Especially in São Paulo, I don't know if we can talk about “agreement” because I think Marcola (leader of the PCC) and Alckmin (governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin) did not sit at the table directly. That's why I call it "accommodations". In São Paulo – and perhaps even that is under threat – a framework was built in public security and in the prison system that has a stability, in which certain consensuses are relied on. A fundamental issue of this consensus is the fact that prisoners considered the main leaders of the PCC have never been transferred to the federal penitentiary system or even entered the RDD (Differential Disciplinary Regime, which subjects the prisoner to a greater degree of isolation). They were in a penitentiary that is formally common.

What would transfer to a federal penitentiary mean?
The feds have a much greater ability to cut off communication. Brazil has four of these prisons. They are extremely strict in terms of disciplinary regime. In them there is the area of ​​the RDD and the penalty that is not RDD. But even the “common” area is much stricter than the state penitentiaries: the prisoner stays in a cell alone, has two hours of sunlight, there is no television in the cell, no radio. In states, the reality is different. Most of the prisoners appointed as leaders of the PCC are in Presidente Venceslau II, in São Paulo, where there is strict security, but not as much as in the federal ones. There, the prisoners have three hours of sunbathing, are in collective cells, have television and conjugal visits. An operation by the São Paulo Public Ministry denounced that prisoners have a series of perks. It is significant information that helps to understand the scenario (Operation Ethos took place at the end of 2016. It was found that lawyers, through the payment of bribes to people involved with State agencies, aimed at achieving the objective of criminal factions, to finance the control of public agents and collaborators).

Why is it significant information? 
Because the image that is sold of state penitentiaries is that they are very strict, that São Paulo prisoners would be in maximum security penitentiaries and would not need to go to the federal system. With this investigation by the Public Ministry, several things were revealed. One of them is that the prisoners spent thousands of reais on doctors, with things that the common population of the prison system does not have. It is said, for example, that Marcola wanted to have botox. Prisoners in other prisons are dying for lack of medical care. After this operation, those detainees appointed as the top of the CCP went to the RDD. I wonder if what happened in Manaus was a coincidence.

In your doctoral work, you say that the PCC has a regulatory dimension. What does that mean? 
Inside prisons, all conflicts, relationships that can carry some degree of conflict, are mediated by the CCP members. Anything that deviates from the norms of coexistence in the cell is taken to the PCC members in the unit. They mediate what happened, listen to the accuser, listen to the accused and witnesses, and define what to do, whether punishment or not. This goes for anything you can imagine inside a prison, from the most banal and everyday things. There are prison units in São Paulo that have 60 prisoners in a cell that could hold 12. Imagine the degree of conflict in this coexistence, including violent ones. In this dimension, the PCC has an important role in regulatory and conflict mediation terms. This performance makes the spaces more peaceful than they were 20 years ago. Therefore, the PCC managed to become this central instance of mediation and regulation. Today, an inmate in a prison system cannot resolve a conflict by himself, as he sees fit. This is essential to understand how physical violence, especially homicides, has dropped a lot in São Paulo prisons.

After the murders of PCC members in Amazonas, can that change?
I don't know. But this dimension of the reduction of physical violence is one of the most important characteristics of this third phase of the PCC, it demonstrates its hegemony. The PCC only started to dispense with direct physical violence as a form of conflict regulation when it became hegemonic in São Paulo, and is no longer threatened by other groups.

In statements about the murders in Roraima and Rondônia in late 2016, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes (appointed by Temer to the STF on February 6), refused to talk about the factions. “I don't comment on criminals,” she said. How to face the issue if one does not consider the existence and importance of these groups?
Bearing in mind the people at the head of the ministries, especially the Ministry of Justice, it is very difficult to say anything. These people don't have the slightest ability to find a solution to the problem. First, because of incapacity, incompetence. Second, because they don't have that specific interest. The interest of the Minister of Justice is to be elected, to be an electorally viable candidate. Nothing he says is intended to solve the problem. Say the nonsense you say no because you don't know the situation. He was Secretary of Security in São Paulo, so he knows the PCC problem. But he speaks from the interests he has in contesting elections. It's evident. During these 23 years of the PCC's existence, São Paulo never recognized the PCC as a problem. Since I first set foot in prison, in 2001, the PCC's presence was already evident. In all these years, I have never seen Governor Geraldo Alckmin (who also governed the state between 2001 and 2003 and from 2003 to 2006, and has been in the São Paulo government since 2011) publicly recognize the PCC as a problem. All the secretaries of Security and Penitentiary Administration also did not recognize it, except for Nagashi Furukawa (he was secretary of the Penitentiary Administration of the State of São Paulo between 1999 and 2006), one of the few who had a much less nebulous and more transparent relationship with this issue. It was during his period, for not making agreements or accommodations, that the greatest turmoil in the prison system occurred. He was one of the few who recognized the CCP as a problem. Aside from him, everyone else downplayed this existence.

Could it be ignorance or lack of knowledge of these authorities?
I do not think so. If they had recognized earlier that the PCC has such a strong role in São Paulo, so present and so incisive, and that even because of that, homicides have dropped in the state, perhaps the governors of the same party that followed would not have lasted so long in power. . One of the great pillars of support for this continuity of PSDB governments in São Paulo is the security policy, which is very sensitive electorally. If it were clear, in my understanding and that of other researchers, that one of the central issues that explains the drop in homicides in the state is precisely the hegemony of the PCC, this regulation of conflicts inside and outside prisons, perhaps the election or reelection would be unfeasible. That is why the issue of the PCC, of ​​public security in general, is very sensitive with regard to political-electoral interests and is not treated in an honest, frank way, in which politicians recognize the problem in order to try to minimize it. . Hence, we cannot move forward.

What does São Paulo have to do with what happened in Amazonas and Roraima?
Governor Geraldo Alckmin said that São Paulo has nothing to do with this. Of course it does. The leaders are in São Paulo.

How do you see the National Security Plan released by the Minister of Justice?
In fact, it's more of the same. Besides, it's bad even compared to what we've always had. As the press in general is not interested in the prison issue outside of these extreme violence events, soon things will settle down and no one will talk about it anymore, or discuss with Alexandre de Moraes how many billions of reais were spending on the federal penitentiaries he advertises and why they are being built. He talks about investments to build five federal penitentiaries, and the four that exist have vacant spaces.

Does building prisons solve? Or does it make the situation worse, which is already calamitous? 
With each new crisis of this system that is permanently in crisis, the authorities' response is to build prisons. This is how the PCC grew, expanded, strengthened and became hegemonic. This is how factions emerged in all other Brazilian states, such as the Comando Vermelho. Saying that it will build more prisons, that it will finance the states to build more prisons means saying that the space for these factions to act will increase, the number of prisoners will increase and, therefore, the number of people who will be subject to the control of the factions. . Building federal penitentiaries means spending a lot of money because these penitentiaries have an expensive structure, and it won't solve the problem. I would like to know his explanation, considering that the four federal penitentiaries have vacant spaces. The federal system is not for serving sentences. It is specifically aimed at punishment, isolation from leaders. It will become impossible to manage.

What is the purpose of the federal penitentiary system?
Nobody really knows. The way it has been working is for the prisoner considered the leader of a faction. He goes and stays for a while. Initially, it could not last more than a year. The system is not suited to the Penal Execution Law, in the sense of having work, school, everything that the inmate supposedly needs to have for resocialization. It is a differentiated system, which leaves the prisoner in isolation, with little contact with other human beings. Prisoners cannot serve their sentences there, although some have been in the federal system for many years, totally against the law, I don't know what the legal maneuver is for that. One of them is Fernandinho Beira-Mar. Hence, the minister announces the construction of five more of these. It makes no sense.

What does the minister intend with this? 
When he announces, the impression is that he is giving an answer to the problem. We have experts who say that one of the characteristics of punishment in contemporary society is that the authorities give answers that are much more symbolic than concrete. Because this will not be charged, in terms of results, it will be forgotten. The root of all this, for me, is that these people have their own interests, political, electoral and they use these massacres to support those interests, but without any concern to effectively discuss and recognize the problem. Then there's no way to get into a serious discussion of public policy because that's not what they're interested in.

The situation of violence in prisons is not going to stop anytime soon, is it?
We are experiencing a moment of tension in the prison system, which should last for a few months. But I think that, for the dynamics of survival, not to decimate, you will end up finding a balance. Until that happens, we will be living in turmoil. An alternative would be to get the leaders of these groups to talk. Of course, the government will never admit it publicly and we will probably never find out if that happens. But I think it's a way out. This happened in other countries, such as El Salvador. In terms of finding a solution, it would bring about a pacification. Of course, that would not be the solution to the problem, because new conflicts may come.

Is there a solution to the crisis in prisons?
The solution to the problem cannot fail to pass through a policy of extrication. And, of course, a broad policy that involves prevention and action more specifically on prisoners who are incarcerated, working on reinsertion, in a system of protection for the egress, for his family. In other words, a series of articulated policies that think about the before, the fulfillment of the sentence itself and the after. It is a solution that needs to consider medium and long term. But we won't have that. We will have short-term electoral bets, release of millions and millions of reais in the construction of prisons, a drain that has no end, and will not solve anything.

On the part of the security forces, wouldn't this model of war on drugs, for example, have to be rethought? 
When I say that there should be a policy of extrication, I have no doubt that one of the elements present in such a policy would have to go through a de facto change in the state's issue of drugs. Because we know that the war on drugs is a war against the poor. The big suppliers, the financiers of trafficking are not in prison. When I talk about decarceration policy, one of the central elements concerns a new relationship between the State and drugs, focused on prevention and care for addicts, and not on punishment, repression and incarceration. Today, in the state of São Paulo, about 30% to 40% are imprisoned for trafficking. This represents a significant amount of people incarcerated for trafficking and the penalties can be high. If we are going to analyze the particular cases, most people are users who sold small amounts of drug to support their own dependence. Most of the prisoners responsible for drug trafficking are people caught with small amounts. It would be necessary to have a broad discussion and review the entire policy that has been made on the war on drugs, which has only contributed to incarcerating young people, younger and younger, who are actually people who are in prison because of a series of vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to falling into the meshes of the justice system.

What do the images of cruelty recorded in recent massacres and published on social networks mean?
This form of killing with decapitation and mutilation is very common. I always say that there is a strong component of the symbolic, of publicly expressing power. This symbolic dimension is amplified with the diffusion through cell phones and social networks. The fact that images are circulated today increases the symbolic importance of this type of death, which aims to make power explicit. From the moment that the PCC acquired hegemony and was consolidated, this type of occurrence stopped happening because it would no longer be necessary to demonstrate its power, which is established. In other states, specifically at a time of dispute, this symbolic dimension acquires greater importance.

Do you think the State will be held accountable for the latest massacres? 
I think not. For me, all those who were in leadership positions at the time of the massacres would have to answer criminally. The people to whom official letters were sent and who did nothing had to answer criminally, including the company that manages the prison, in the various reports of irregularity. I don't think it will happen. Not even in the Carandiru Massacre, in which the police pulled the trigger and shot to kill, was the State held accountable

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