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Brazilians had long used Fernando de Noronha’s convict society as a foil to comprehend and define mainland social norms and the meanings of freedom. The Brazilian state’s need for cheap labor for public works, its lack of prison capacity, and the expense of maintaining prisoners separated on the basis of civil condition, much less color, made segregation impracticable. But a Brazilian preference for integration is visible not only in state institutions that inducted the intractable poor, but in the elite’s ideology of whitening through race mixture and subsidized European immigration. Brazilian authorities came to evince similar ideas about gender and allowed some convicts to live with their wives and dependents, even when convicted of homicide. The regional and international comparisons on the sequencing and depth of human rights reforms in relation to the intractable poor demonstrate the importance of integrating South Atlantic perspectives to build a more truly Atlantic-wide optic.

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