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Brazil: Federal Supreme Court Authorizes Release of Pregnant Women in Pretrial Detention

(Mar. 15, 2018) On February 20, 2018, the second chamber of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court decided by a majority vote to grant collective habeas corpus to women currently in pretrial detention and place them under house arrest instead. This decision applies to all women prisoners in the national territory who are pregnant or mothers of children up to the age of 12 or persons with disabilities. (2ª Turma concede HC coletivo a gestantes e mães de filhos com até doze anos presas preventivamente, SUPREMO TRIBUNAL FEDERAL (Feb. 20, 2018).) This substitution in the nature of confinement would be without prejudice to the application of the alternative measures provided for in article 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which defines precautionary measures to be used instead of imprisonment, such as prohibition of access or attendance at certain places, prohibition of contact with a specific person, prohibition to leave the county, spending the nights at home, and bail. (CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, Decree-Law No. 3,689 of October 3, 1941, art. 319, Presidency of the Republic website.)

The Court’s decision must be communicated to the presidents of the state and federal courts, including the state and federal military courts, so that, within sixty days, the decision of the chamber may be analyzed and fully implemented. (2ª Turma concede HC coletivo a gestantes e mães de filhos com até doze anos presas preventivamente, supra.)

Officials have estimated this decision could result in the release of around 15,000 women.  (Andrea Carvalho, Pregnant Women Will No Longer Await Trial in Brazilian Jails, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Feb. 23, 2018).)