Brazil World Cup Stadium Could Be Used for Prisoners, Judge Says

A judge has suggested a novel use for one of the new stadiums that organizers of soccer’s World Cup in Brazil are most concerned about: as a prisoner processing center.

Judge Sabino Marques, in the city of Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas region, said the $275 million, 44,000-seat Amazonia Arena could be used to ease the burden on the overcrowded public jail. The stadium is one of 12 Brazil is building or refurbishing at a cost of at least 7 billion reais ($3.2 billion).

The future use of the Manaus stadium has come under scrutiny from politicians and the public. The city has no soccer team in Brazil’s first or second divisions, or a tradition for the sport. During June’s Confederations Cup, a test event for next year’s World Cup, Brazilians took to the streets in record numbers to protest against government spending, and specifically targeted the World Cup.

“I see no other better place, even temporarily, to receive detainees in Manaus,” Marques, president of the watchdog group tasked with monitoring the prison system in the Amazon region, told reporters. He also suggested prisoners be processed at a venue used to celebrate the annual carnival. “Until the state can solve the problem by building new prisons then these two empty spaces should be used,” he said, in remarks confirmed by court officials.

Amazon state officials declined to comment, saying that a formal proposal hadn’t been made.

Four Games

Manaus will host four group games during the World Cup. It’s not the only arena that’s causing concern in Brazil. A group set up by public prosecutors to monitor World Cup spending has also raised concerns over stadia in Cuiaba and the capital, Brasilia.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has frequently had to tackle questions about a legacy of so-called “white elephant” stadiums being left behind following the World Cup. He’s also said the facilities could be used for more than sports, for example for trade fairs, concerts and conferences.

“There is no chance these stadiums will become white elephants,” Rebelo said earlier this year. “They will be much more than football fields. They will be multipurpose spaces that the cities have lacked before.”

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