In order to sufficiently question the acceptance and effectiveness of Boal's cultural projects within the Brazilian penal system it is firstly vital to understand the fundamental degrading and inhuman conditions that they must contend with. The necessary evaluation of the Brazilian criminal justice system is problematical due to a lack of national contemporary research and information technology that is capable of unifying details on the subjectivity of the entire judicial process.
The deficiency in trustworthy data consequently restricted my investigation solely to four internationally established research bodies whose analysis focuses on the state of neglect by and failures of public prosecution offices and the Judiciary leave both the physical and political conditions of the prison system itself. The collection of statistical reformatory information that follows is based on 'victimisation'2 and 'prison conditions' research undertaken by the UN, Ministry of Justice, Amnesty International, the British Council3 and the International Body for Prison Studies.I have created graphic representations to contextualise the information provided within a wider spectrum of evidence. Brazilian prisons display chronic overcrowding and cruel, degrading conditions of detention. In June 2003, the National Prison Administration confirmed that the total of Brazil's prison population was 248,989, whilst its official capacity was only 198,367. The occupancy level is therefore dramatically overcrowded at 143.
7% (See Figure 1. 1). Population rates indicate that in recent years the country has sent increasing numbers of people to prison (See Figure 1. ).
Recent media exposes have covered high profile national crimes that triggered a mass public condemnation and renewed calls for more punitive sentencing. The latest data collection from 2002 showed that 92% of punishment took the form of prison sentences4, despite the recidivism rate for those people sentenced to alternatives being a mere 2%. Whilst 27% of Brazil's free populations (who significantly constitute the near entirety of the prison community) live under the poverty line of U$2 per day, the average daily cost of a prisoner is approximately U$8.Rare arithmetical indications suggest that sentencing and crime report rates are erratic, tyrannical and inconsistent throughout the States. For example, Sao Paulo sentences 276. 3 inmates per 1000 inhabitants contrasting with Rio de Janeiro's 147.
2. In Rio de Janeiro 53% of prisoners are sentenced for drug-trafficking, a much higher rate than in other States (See Figure 1. 1). Figure 1. 1 Figure 1. 2 Figure 1.
3 Figure 1. 4 Regardless of the soaring levels and subhuman conditions of prisoners, the system has shown no evidence of increased staffing for over twenty years.Overworked police and prison officers undergo no official training for 60% of the duties they execute. Social, psychological, medical and legal assistance is only available from guards and needless to say wholly insufficient. No formal facilities for the provision of medical attention are supplied and often the guards themselves must administer imperative treatments such as injections.
Abundant prisoner access to drugs, guns and mobile phones reveals that corruption (and impunity for it) within the institutions are endemic.The Brazilian prison system is entrenched by a systematic practice of brutal and humiliating torture by state officials, to whom the uses of violent and repressive methods come as tools of the trade. Such ill treatment is often linked to staff attempts to extract money from detainees or their families. Corrupt officers consistently exploit their employment situation for additional financial profit through dangerous black market methods of illegal arms distribution.The 249 000 inmates that contend with the tragic conditions of the Brazilian prison system has resulted in constant prison riots and breakouts that ultimately cause a major public security problem nationwide.
Desperate measures must be taken for both prisoner and citizen alike in order to draw recognition of human rights that are forgotten not applied, but instead violated. The recognition of Human Rights lies in the hands of people in high Governmental positions who are trusted to guarantee the minimum level of living conditions for all people.Theoretically the idea of Human Rights is guaranteed by international laws and accords that Brazil's Federal Government signed. At the turn of this century the Government devised a national Human Rights programme directed towards the criminal justice system. The sentencing law provides that: The Government must give assistance to the prisoner in a way that crime must be prevented, in order to prepare them to return into society.
The authorities should respect physically and morally all prisoners.Minimum rules include the right to participate in cultural activities as part of the human being's development. "Urgent measures must be taken in favour of the dignity of those human beings who, in the care of the state, live like animals. "5 Even with attempts to enhance prison conditions, the Brazilian system is often referred to as tragic.
'Suppression' encapsulates the factual image as depicted above. Boal himself offers a prisoner's perspective on this environment from his experience of incarceration during military dictatorship.His ties to the penal system remain evidently personal, contentious and high on his agenda. In his books6 Boal recalls the common practices he witnessed during life inside prison: drugs, robbery, sexual violence and murder. The tone employed by Boal towards the dictatorship and penitentiary institutions of Brazil which he now so readily works within, implies hostility and disrespect.
The liberal theories and conditions that Boal strives to promote wholly condemn the current practices of imprisonment that routinely inflict humiliation and further suffering.Prison as punishment rather than for punishment reflects Boal's favoured surrogate to the system that imposes a loss of family, socialisation and conclusively, liberty. All Boal's writings steer towards a more corrective prison regime and resent the current system's subjection to reclusion, deprivation and extra disabilities supplementary to a loss of liberty. Boal implies these conditions achieve nothing but increased prisoner resentment towards society, more dangerous and maladjusted individuals and a wholly defeated purpose.
He writes; "Prison should be a time for reflecting, a learning space... t should not become a suspension of life..
. Prisoners need to understand what has been done and what is still to be done. "7 The fundamental ethics of law and justice in the prison system practice contradicts the nation's theoretical - and more significantly Boal's own - moral stance. It appears that Boal's experience in prison enabled him to create a solution that resists the brutal and oppressive prison regimes that still exist today. Boal did accept that he was physically imprisoned, but never that he was confined in either mind or imagination.Time too remained his own to utilise as he would.
In what Boal describes as an obligation to look at himself, the Theatre of the Oppressed was born. Behind bars a laboratory of liberation was founded; a system that enables people to free both their memories and emotions. Theatre of the Oppressed acts as an instrument to provide alternative strategies that prepare a prisoner for a future integration back into society. "Theatre can play an extraordinary role but it also has to be accompanied by other things than theatre.
8 In an interview with Boal9, his above statement led me to question his and indeed mine own belief in the Theatre of the Oppressed' role within a prison. With the more I discovered about the prison context, the extremely limited accompanying factors it possessed for the theatre became all the more evident. The detainees are offered no security, no communication, no rewards, no responsibilities, no employment, no mental or physical treatment, no legal advice, and no academic or vocational vitality - in short, no hope.In the cases of life sentencing, prisoners are denied ever the opportunity to return to civilisation - existence for them is, and ever shall be, within the prison. Before thorough investigation I can only conclude that the suggestion of a 'free' mind is an implausible one and the application of a theatre of liberation is an ultimately unobtainable objective. Theatre of the Oppressed could surely not exist within a more contradictory place than a space that is circumscribed with limited possibilities.
Boal demands the protagonist obtains an open demarcation of both oppressed and oppressor but how can this be achieved when a prisoner exist between the two, under constant vigilance from their likely oppressors? The question is; if Theatre of the Oppressed proposes to be a rehearsal of reality then within prison it surely amounts to little more than a staging of impossible encounters? In the next section of this chapter I investigate specifically how CTO rose to such a dilemma.Prison directors and guards undeniably face the everyday challenge of running under-resourced and overcrowded prisons. Typical factors that their job is associated with is low salary, no workers' rights, unregistered and illegal usage of arms, no insurance and interminable hours. Like the prisoners their life is overrun by fear and crime, where security is constantly at risk from gangs that have taken charge of the majority of Brazil's prisons. CTO intended to offer the guards an alternative to their role which so often extended the boundaries of punishment beyond a given sentence.
In order for the Theatre of the Oppressed to work it became imperative that CTO recognised the high level of emotion and anger directed towards the incarcerated community from both prisoner and guard alike. The guards who are often and rightly so, labelled as the perpetrators of violence and abusers of rights were here offered a programme that implemented itself as a pilot project specifically for them. The focus was deflected from discovering individual oppressors and instead concentrated on the habits of society that caused such oppression.It was imperative the theatre practitioners accepted that their role is one unable to change courtroom happenings or unlock prison doors but potentially capable of helping people to understand the neglect and severity of authorities as a first step towards changing them. "Transform desire into law.
"10 The following depiction of CTO's quest for social change shows a continuation and development of forum theatre where it is manipulated in order to produce legislation and through juridical and political proposals, is termed by Boal as 'legislative theatre'.It was accomplished between 1993 and 1996 when Boal was vereador of the Alterman Workers Party. He saw theatre as an alternative form of direct democracy and electoral process. During the four years of Boal's term, thirteen municipal laws originated from thirty-four suggestions.
His team carried out workshops in fifty-three communities and by the time he left Government, legislative theatre was an established reality. In 1998 CTO created seven legislative theatre groups11 to continue a social dialogue; Staging Human Rights is the most recent and exploratory development in legislative theatre.The programme in question is named 'Staging Human Rights' and initially began in 2001 with 34 different institutions in Sno Paulo, approximately 3600 prisoners and 400 workers. The project is ongoing and has spread to other locations in Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais and Rondonia.
The project proposal application was developed People's Palace Projects, accepted by its implemented partner CTO and consists of an unprecedented partnership with Great Britain. The UK Community Fund funded the project and other Brazilian collaborators are FUNAP and the state of Son Paulo's Agency for Education and Prison Management Improvement Plan.Staging Human Rights set out to fight for the validity of prisons as entailing recognisably humane conditions: By generating positive activities within the system, the programme aims to begin a process of re-socialisation within the prison, that will also have an impact on their family and lives [where] ultimately society can be a safer place for all. 12 During my internship I travelled with CTO to the Ministry of Justice in Brasilia where on the 9th July I experienced the National Public Forum, which presented the culmination of the project's work.The Staging Human Rights Project trained Forum Theatre programmes to enable many different agents to become coringas.
Prison guards, police, psychologists and teachers used theatrical games and exercises to encourage the non-actor community to create a forum and discourage apprehension towards theatrical intervention. The performance results from the cycle of workshops were shared at the Forum amongst many people of varying hierarchical status: lawyers, law makers, guards, prisoners and their families, representatives from human rights agencies, students, a battery of the press13, and Brazilian celebrities14.The collection of people, practices and proposals that culminated as a result of the Forum, form the basis for much of the analysis that follows. From here onwards I aim to depict, with much reference to Staging Human Rights, that CTO's objectives have themselves successfully gainsaid or at least made ambiguous the accusations of a contradictory and idealistic theatre that I previously subscribed to it.
In order to evaluate the theoretical relevance of this public practice, I have below categorised the individual, theatrical, public, institutional and democratic responses15.