Michelle and Danny explain the impetus for their documentary project:
Our job was to capture the stories and images related to prison life, the city streets, the courtrooms and the debates shaping the future of Brazil’s legal reform.
It wasn’t easy.
Our opportunity in Brazil was organized by International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), an organization open to young travelers who would like to use their skills in documentary photography or writing to assist programs in the developing world.
In July of 2009, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) sent us to Brazil to assess the impact and potential of IBJ’s fellowship program there. The program, known as JusticeMakers, granted Dr. Aziz Saliba the financial support to produce an educational DVD on habeas corpus and the Inter-American Court.
Every prison that IBJ’s team visited was at least twice over capacity, except for one- APAC (Associação de Proteção e Assistência aos Condenados). This prison is Brazil’s homegrown vision of a jail guarded by prisoners themselves. It was the cleanest, most cost-efficient, spiritual and calm prison we’d visited during our stay. The energy and the optimism of the lawyers we worked with kept us going.
The surreal characteristic of the other prisons we visited reminded me of Ursula K. LeGuin’s famous story, “Those who walk away from Omelas.” But on the whole, I was most struck by the humor and the optimism of people like Adão, a spiritual leader in a community with high incarceration rates; Thomas, a young boy of 15 who knew his rights front and back; Lupe, a man who had re-written a book about his life in prison memorized completely in his own head; Roberto Tardelli, a leading prosecutor who worked in neighborhoods where locals thought they were still under the military dictatorship of the 1970s; and Casé, a lawyer leading the campaign against pedophilia and child abuse who still had time for his own love of comic books and family.
These people all have their own stories.
I hope our photos encourage you to learn more about their situations, help their cause, or join IBJ in the future.
To learn more about the documentary journalist positions at International Bridges to Justice, please visit this site.
If you’d like to make a donation to the habeas corpus project, please click here.
If you’re interested in volunteering with an NGO in Brazil, please contact Cecilia Neves Silveira at email@example.com. Cecilia coordinates opportunities at OMNES, an NGO working with the defense of human rights as a whole. Projects include teaching professionals how to work with the human rights legal system. Another project assists prisoners and defends their rights.
Cecilia also coordinates volunteer opportunities at De Volta Para Casa, an NGO helping children return to their homes or to help them find families. De Volta Para Casa also works with children in adolescent prisons.