Behind Bars: Urso Branco, Brazil | One of the World’s Toughest Prisons

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The pre-trial prison Urso Branco is one of the worst jails in all of Brazil. Riots have been taking place here almost every year since 2002. Gangs battling for control of the drug business are also fighting it out behind bars. They use every opportunity to eliminate rival gang members. In the past 20 years, more than 100 people have died in riots behind the walls of Urso Branco. A sad record for Brazil. The situation in Urso Branco remains a powder keg, despite the government tightening security in recent years. Sanitary conditions are catastrophic; cells are desperately overcrowded. The guards are heavily armed and always carry loaded weapons. Each rifle's barrel contain special anti-riot ammunition made of rubber. The other cartridges are live ammunition. This is the only way they can keep the situation under control. Even though the guards face the constant risk of attack. To this place, the twenty-eight-year-old Naum is being brought, having been arrested by the police when trying to rob a bar. In Urso Branco he has to wait for the decision from the judge. The decision, if he will stay in jail for the next 15 years or if he will see his family soon again. Naum shares the cell with 19 other inmates – 19 men who are in custody here for robbery, murder, rape and drug trafficking. Inside is cramped and the sanitary facilities are catastrophic. As the new guy, Naum is at the bottom of the pecking order. What's worse is that the situation behind bars can escalate at any time.

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