Carandiru massacre

Victims Prisoners
Location Carandiru Penitentiary
Died Unknown
Date 2 October 1992; 29 years ago (1992-10-02)
Criminal penalty Unknown


The Carandiru massacre (Massacre do Carandiru, Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐˈsakɾi du kɐɾɐ̃dʒiˈɾu]) occurred on Friday, 2 October 1992, in Carandiru Penitentiary in São Paulo, Brazil, when military police stormed the penitentiary following a prison riot. The massacre, which left 111 prisoners dead, is considered by many people to be a major human rights violation.


The incident was started by a prisoner revolt. Around 13:30, two groups got into a fight after a game of football; the fight quickly escalated into a prison riot that lasted three hours. Prisoners were reported attacking each other with knives and pipes. The conflict consisted of 2,069 prisoners against 15 guards, resulting in the guards quickly losing control of the prisoners. Around 14:15, the prison director, Dr José Ismael Pedrosa, informed the local military police Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo about the uprising. The military was given full command of the prison when arriving about 14:30. Though the director wanted to negotiate with the prisoners by a megaphone, he was held back by his staff since the police almost crushed him. The prisoners were stripped, locked in their cells and shot. Other prisoners were killed by police dogs. The police released their dogs in the barber shop, where the wounded prisoners were taken. The facility was a detention center, not a penitentiary, meaning that the inmates had not yet been tried or convicted.

By the end of the day, 111 prisoners were dead; and 37 more were injured. Ballistic evidence implicated that 515 bullets were found in the prisoners. Furthermore, gunshot wounds were mainly found in the face, head, throat and chest. Hands among the dead were found in front of the face or behind the head suggesting defensive positions. No policemen were injured.


The country was in major shock from the massacre. The case was brought before the inter-American Commission by The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Teotônio Vilela Commission for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, and in 2000, eight years after the massacre, they condemned Brazil for it. In 2013, hundreds of people attended a multi-faith vigil in São Paulo in memoriam of those killed in the massacre. Relatives of those killed and human rights activists have both demanded and appealed for justice. The vigil and pleas for justice led to several trials for the officers involved in the massacre that same year. The commanding officer of the operation, Colonel Ubiratan Guimarães, was initially sentenced to 632 years in prison for his mishandling of the rebellion and the subsequent massacre. He was in charge of the special police unit ROTA that is known for having an aggressive approach to civil disturbance. On 16 February 2006, a Brazilian court voided Guimarães' conviction because of mistrial claims; the court accepted his argument that he was only "following orders". Guimarães, who was also a member of the São Paulo state legislature, was assassinated in September 2006. Although not entirely certain, his death appears to be the result of his role in the massacre. Another direct result of the riot and the handling of the riot was the unification of prisoners. One of Brazil's most notorious gangs, the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), is said to have formed in 1993 as a response to the event. The surviving gang members joined forces with other prisoners to provide protection against the police. The group is believed to be responsible for the death of José Ismael Pedrosa, the director of the prison at the time.

After years of national and international pressure, the prison was demolished on 8 December 2002, the former complex having been turned into a park. The massacre also gained international attention. An example of this was in the New York Times, which published one article captioned "111 Killed When Police Storm Brazilian Prison During Inmate Riot" the same year as the massacre. The massacre also received attention from the BBC with several articles in the last several years dealing with the vigils and the trials. The massacre has also sparked ongoing discussions, both in Brazil and internationally about Brazil's prison system. In 2017, The New York Times published an article captioned "Brazil’s Deadly Prison System". Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have also documented statistics of police violence and acquittals in Brazil.


In April 2013, 23 policemen involved in the massacre were sentenced to 156 years in prison each for the killing of 13 inmates. In August 2013, another 25 policemen involved in the massacre were sentenced to 624 years each for the deaths of 52 inmates. In April 2014, 15 additional policemen were sentenced to 48 years. Although the UN urged Brazil to bring justice to those most affected by the slaughter in September 2016, the court declared the trial on Carandiru massacre null. The court judged that the massacre was an act of self-defense and that there was a lack of evidence to link the individual officers to the individual killings. Consequently, the prosecutor is initiating an appeal and the process remains ongoing. None of the officers convicted have served their sentences. Since the massacre, Brazil's federal government has passed new legislation to reform the prison system, all of which has yet to be enforced.

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