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Prison massacre witness wants memories to live on

By VICE/VBS staff
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Preserving memories of prison carnage
  • Witness to 1992 deadly prison revolt documented bloody aftermath
  • Ronaldo Mazotto hopes photos, video, personal effects will help preserve history
  • VBS travels to Brazil to see the evidence, meet Mazotto
  • Sao Paulo
  • Brazil
  • Prisons

Editor's note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is Vice's broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- Throughout the 1990s, São Paulo's House of Detention contained about 8,000 of Latin America's most violent criminals. Better known as Carandiru, it was once the largest prison on the continent. On October 2, 1992, a massive fight broke out in the Brazilian complex among the prisoners. It ultimately resulted in 111 inmate deaths.

That day, there were 84 state military police officers present, and 102 bullets were fired.

The nine guys who weren't shot in their vital organs got knifed, but the cops (none of whom were killed, by the way) swore that the prisoners were already carved up by the time guards arrived.

In the archival images we collected, we see one inmate partially decapitated and another with a hole in his chest the size of a tennis ball. That doesn't exactly scream self-defense. (The footage is graphic, so be warned.)

See the rest of Carandiru's Bloody Memories at VBS.TV

Ronaldo Mazotto de Lima worked at the prison for over a decade. He was also one of the first people to witness the aftermath of the carnage that's now referred to as the Carandiru Massacre.

After the jail's destruction, Mazotto de Lima transferred to a minimum-security prison in Serra Azul. He brought more than his experience to the new job.

He also took along some of the only surviving evidence of the massacre: More than 2,000 photos, 300 personal effects and 10 hours of grisly video footage.

It was all taken shortly after the violence subsided, and he wants to be sure that history doesn't forget what he witnessed. So we asked him to help us understand.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in Vice magazine.