Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Research carried out since 2008 with Indigenous people in prisons in Roraima state, Brazil, where the national penal code is applied by law operators to judge people from indigenous societies with very different cultural values, reveals intercultural misunderstandings in tribunals, which often impose sentences which are not understood by indigenous people, sometimes leaving them bewildered at being accused of crimes which do not make sense to them. The creation of indigenous internal regiments, in written form, by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), despite many difficulties involved, is proving to be one way of resolving many cases within the communities, to avoid sending indigenous people to prisons which serve as schools for crime in very overcrowded extremely violent situations. Most Indigenous people are poor and often await trial for years, far longer than is legally permitted, having little or no access to a fair defense, and suffering a double discrimination for being poor and indigenous. Alternative punishments are contemplated in national and international legislation, but are consistently denied by systemic racism in Brazilian society, expressed in phrases repeated by law operators such as “All are egual before the Law”, annulling their differential rights as indigenous people and reinforcing the enormous injustices and inequalities in Brazilian society.