Criminal justice

17 de April, 2023

Madness and crime: Zefinha, the longest confined woman in Brazil (“Eu não sou presa de juízo, não”: Zefinha, a louca perigosa mais antiga do Brasil), 2016.

Living in a forensic hospital for the last 38 years in the state of Alagoas, Brazil, Josefa da Silva is the longest female inhabitant surviving the psychiatric and penal system in the country. This paper analyzes the dossier, judicial proceedings, interviews and photographs about her. The psychiatric report is the key component of the medical and penal doubling of criminal insanity. Twelve psychiatric reports illustrate three time frames of the court files: abnormality, danger, and abandonment. The psychiatric authority over confinement has moved from discipline to security, and from disciplinary security to social assistance. In the arrangement between the penal and psychiatric powers, the judge recognizes the medical authority over the truth of insanity. It is the medicine of the reasons for Zefinha’s internment that altered over the decades.

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