Luciana Stoimenoff Brito¹ The File of Mr. P Resumé Resumé
Long-term incarceration in Brazilian forensic hospitals: files on an
L’incarcération de longue durée dans les asiles criminels brésiliens:
dossier d’un homme abandonné
Luciana Stoimenoff Brito¹
¹PhD Student of University of Brasília – UnB; Brasília-DF
The File of Mr. P
1. 1970 – 1989: the psychiatric reports explained the
need to confine Mr. P due to the risks of insanity
outside the surveillance of the forensic hospital.
Il y a 26 asiles criminels au Brésil et dans l’un d’entre eux y est confiné, depuis 46 ans, Mr. P. Cet homme est le plus vieux
survivant du régime criminel psychiatrique brésilien. Selon le rapport de la police, Mr. P. a frappé son frère à la tête avec un
sarcloir. C’est suite à cet acte criminel que Mr. P. a reçu un diagnostic de schizophrénie. Par conséquent, plutôt que de
recevoir une condamnation pénale, il a été soumis à un traitement psychiatrique obligatoire. Son affaire criminelle a été
suspendue en attendant l'arrêt du traitement relatif à sa santé mentale. Le traitement n’a jamais été achevé et en 1989 le
délai de prescription sur son crime a expiré. Mr. P. n’a nulle part où aller et il est donc condamné à rester dans un asile
criminel. C’est à partir des discours pénaux et psychiatriques que je reconstruis l'histoire de l'internement de Mr. P., afin de
mieux comprendre ce qui justifie son internement sur une aussi longue période. Dans le dossier de Mr. P., les rapports
d'examens psychiatriques concernant les justifications de sa détention nous apprennent que l'autorité psychiatrique a
maintenu l’isolement de cet homme à deux reprises. Entre 1970 et 1989, les rapports psychiatriques considèrent la
nécessité de confiner Mr. P. en raison des risques qu’il représente pour la société. Après 2000, la raison qui justifie son
confinement s’est transformée et commence à être signalée comme un cas d'abandon. Sans lien familial et sans réseau
social, l'État considère que Mr. P. doit continuer à vivre dans un hôpital médico-légal ou un asile d'aliénés pour personnes
âgées. C'est à partir de ces archives que s’appuie mon analyse basée sur un cadre théorique foucaldien.
People who have committed crimes in Brazil and are considered irresponsible for their acts because of some disease or
mental disorder, are subject to compulsory hospitalization according to the Brazilian Penal Code (Brasil, 1984). The Security
Measure is the Brazilian legal apparatus for them. This measure declares these individuals are legally exempt from
punishment. The forensic psychiatric exam provides proof of sanity or insanity, which is used as the basis for the judge’s
ruling. After the judge’s decision is rendered, these individuals are sent to forensic hospitals. These forensic hospitals are
ambiguous institutions: both a mental asylum and a prison occupying the same space (Diniz & Tavares, 2013).
According to Brazilian law, forensic patients are presumed to be dangerous. There is no maximum term for the
enforcement of a Security Measure. This Measure is only terminated when a psychiatric report indicates the mentally ill
offender is believed to be no longer dangerous. According to the first census on forensic hospitals in Brazil, 3,989 men and
women are held in these forensic hospitals in 2011 (Diniz, 2013).
Confinement was considered treatment – it was necessary to remedy
certain behaviors considered to be part of Mr. P’s insanity before
transferring him back to prison.
According to the 1976 an 1977 psychiatric reports, “Mr. P has
psychopathological diagnosis that requires treatment while in
confinement” and “he is ill, and his psychopathological diagnosis
indicates a need for treatment while committed to a hospital”.
In 1979, the third psychiatric report described Mr. P’s prognosis as
“dismal”. The psychiatrists report about “the uncertainty of
reintegrating the patient”. Mr. P should remain confined because he
is a person who “has no responsibility for his actions”, according to
the conclusion of the 1979 report. There would be risks for allowing
him to leave the asylum.
Figure 2: Court order to Mr. P’s release, 1990.
During the 1980s four additional psychiatric reports were written. Mr. P’s acts against his brother still serve as the backdrop for
the psychiatric evaluations. It was necessary to evaluate the risks of his “insanity” of a man who committed an act that was
The psychiatric reports produced between 1983 and 1988 describe Mr. P as “isolated” and “not interacting with the other
patients and staff”. Mr. P’s “treatment” was still not sufficient for him to live outside of the asylum. The professionals said Mr.
P should “develop the capacity for socialization”, but the socialization should occur inside the walls of the asylum.
In 1989 the statute of limitations ran out on his crime, so the case was closed. Mr. P received an order for his release (Figure
2). During the whole decade of 1990, the judge did not request that the forensic psychiatrists examine Mr. P’s condition in the
asylum. Due to the statute of limitations expiring, he was considered a free man.
2. After 2000: the justification for the confinement transformed and starts being reported as a case of
In the 2000s, the qualifier “abandonment” becomes part of the discourse utilized to describe Mr. P’s situation. The expression
“abandonment", coming from judicial power, calls for a questioning of the legality of depriving Mr. P of his freedom for more
than three decades.
“Despite the fact that he had received an order for his release, he remains housed in this institution due to the fact that he does
not have a family that could take care of him” (psychiatric report, 2008)
“Mr. P needs permanent treatment which could be done in an outpatient setting only if there is continuous familial or similar
support” (psychiatric report, 2010).
Mr. P was born in the Northeast of Brazil. He has
spent the longest amount of time, 47 years, in a
forensic hospital in Brazil. According to the police
report, Mr. P hit his brother on the head with a hoe.
His insanity was classified as schizophrenia. He did
not receive a prison sentence; he received a
judgment for compulsory psychiatric treatment for
mental health. His criminal case has been
suspended while awaiting the end of his mental
health treatment. The treatment was never
completed, and, as a result, in 1989 the statute of
limitations ran out on the crime. Mr. P remains in
the forensic hospital. He has nowhere to go.
In 2013 his identity was revealed in a Brazilian
newspaper. He was described as a senile man and
the oldest Brazilian prisoner (Figure 1).
The metamorphoses of the justifications for confinement are presented in brief lines signed by the psychiatrists. The
psychiatric report transforms, not in the diagnosis, but in the conclusion about Mr. P’s segregation. It is not the medicine
of classification that changes but the reasons for his hospitalization.
The justifications for Mr. P’s confinement were divided into two periods. The first period (1970-1989) talks about the
need for monitoring a man who committed a violent act against his brother, transforming into a dangerous man. The
second period (after 2000) refers to an abandoned man that needs care.
Mr. P’s confinement remains justified under the Brazilian legal system not only a crime committed almost 50 years ago,
but for the absence of a power that would exercise guardianship and surveillance of his insanity. Mr. P is described as
incapable of taking care of himself. Without family or social ties, representatives of the State do not indicate a different
outcome for Mr. P. He remains incarcerated in a forensic hospital or an asylum for the elderly insane.
Figure 1: “Joint effort discovers prisoner who should have been released
since 1989”. The man about 80 years old may be the oldest prisoner in
the country, according to Prado (2013).
I reconstructed the story about Mr. P’s confinement in order to better understand the penal and psychiatric discourses that
justify his indefinite segregation. I examined his dossier, which has been filed away in the forensic hospital, and contains
copies of parts of the criminal case files, such as police investigations, sentences, and expert opinions. Dossiers are not
medical records; they are administrative documents. Mr. P’s dossier contains 150 pages. I recovered his dossier in 2011.
In Mr. P’s dossier, I explored the metamorphoses of the psychiatric reports about the justifications for his confinement.
Diniz, Debora. Estabelecimentos de Custódia e Tratamento Psiquiátrico: um estudo censitário. Brasília: LetrasLivres,
Diniz, Debora & Tavares, Maria. Mental illness and crime in Brazil. Lancet 2013; 382, 1877-1878.
Brasil. Lei n. 7.210, de 11 de julho de 1984, que institui a Lei de Execuções Penais. [Online].; 1984 [cited 2015 Janeiro
10. Available from: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil/leis/L7210.htm.
Prado, Verônica. Multirão Carcerário descobre preso no CE que devia estar solto desde 1989. [Online].; 2013 [cited
2015 Janeiro 10. Available from: http://g1.globo.com/ceara/noticia/2013/08/mutirao-carcerario-descobre-preso-noce-que-devia-estar-solto-desde-1989.html
I thank for the financial support of COORDENAÇÃO DE APERFEIÇOAMENTO DE PESSOAL DE NÍVEL SUPERIOR
(CAPES). A special thanks for Nursing History Research Unit of University of Ottawa . Also, I would like to
thank Dr. Marie-Claude and Dr. Débora Diniz for helping me in this journey.