Brazil prison population rockets to world's 4th largest

BRASILIA - The number of Brazilians behind bars has almost doubled in a decade, rocketing the South American nation to the world's fourth largest prison population, authorities said Tuesday.

As of the first quarter of 2014 - the latest figures available - there were 607,700 people in prison in Brazil, according to a study by the Justice Ministry, which manages the national jail system. In 2004, there were 336,400.

Only the United States (2.2 million), China (1.6 million) and Russia (673,000) have a higher number of inmates.

The report comes as lawmakers are debating reducing from 18 to 16 the age for prosecution for serious crimes.

That would likely further burden a prison system which is already overcrowded by more than 50 per cent.

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