Maria – was sentenced to three years, two months and three days in prison for shoplifting a chocolate egg and a chicken breast for her children from a supermarket in Matão, São Paulo.
She was kept in detention for five months before her trial, then found guilty of a first-degree crime. Although she was briefly remanded during her appeal, a second judge sent her to prison pregnant in November 2016. She has since given birth – to her fourth child – behind bars and is now nursing her baby son in an over-crowded cell. Once the child is six months, it will be taken from her care. The ombudsman, Maíra Cora Diniz, said the penalty for Maria was “absurdly” disproportionate to the crime, which did not involve violence, damage or social disturbance. The public defender also noted that the sentence would also punish the baby, which would be wrenched from its mother at a point when it still needed breastfeeding.
Meantime, those found guilty of such "white-collar" crimes such as in the Lava Jato investigation, which uncovered a vast network of bribes and kickbacks from public contracts that were channelled through major corporations, including Petrobras and Odebrecht, to the major political parties and secret accounts held by dozens of senior politicians, which defrauded taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars – have received lighter sentences than Maria because they have cut deals with prosecutors or their lawyers have cited extenuating family or health circumstances. Several have been released. Others have been put under house arrest, where they can live in relative luxury.