By Andre Carvalho

The word “victory” is rarely uttered alongside the word “prisons” in Brazil, where even pre-trial detainees are routinely held in overcrowded, unsanitary and violent cells. But this week, Brazil´s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that pregnant women, mothers of children up to the age of 12 and of persons with disabilities, accused of non-violent crimes, should await trial under house arrest not in detention.

The ruling offers some relief to moms like Jéssica Monteiro, a 24-year-old with no criminal record arrested on February 10 in São Paulo allegedly with 90 grams of marijuana and thrown into a filthy police precinct cell, despite the fact that she was 39-weeks pregnant. The next day she went into labor and was taken to hospital. In a hearing held in Monteiro´s absence, a judge ruled she should remain in jail pending her trial. On February 13, police returned her to the cell, where she slept on a mattress on the floor with her newborn. The public outcry led to her release pending trial.