the brazilian democratic transition, still underway today, has run up against enormous difficulty in incorporating penal action. or, put in yet stronger terms, we could say that the boundaries of democratization processes, delineated through the action of that sector of the state, reveal the possibility that the juridical field remains immune to democratizing change. although prevailing discourse among law professionals asserts that penal justice is undergoing democratization, what we have observed in practice is a strong resistance within the juridical field to assuming political responsibilities within the consolidation of democracy. this article reports analyses and conclusions formulated through observation of the brazilian penal justice system that gave origin to the thesis entitled "penal justice in brazil today: democratic discourse, authoritarian practice". the research sought to reflect on contemporary criminal justice policy, which has been guided by the widening of repression and the continued use of incarceration. such policy, carried out in brazil since the beginning of the 1985 "political opening" has adjusted itself to the liberal project that is also currently underway in the country, as well as in almost the entire western capitalist world. as we can observe, penal justice, even during the execution of sentences, operates in authoritarian and exclusive ways, suppressing the rights guaranteed by law to those who have been sentenced and adopting extremely repressive forms as demonstrated by the extremely sparse benefits that it concedes. thus, in brazil, criminality has generally been responded through severe sentences, reflected in the absence of guarantees of constitutional rights and ample recourse to incarceration. in this vein, our contemporary democratic governments have frequently adopted a punitive stance that seeks to reaffirm the state's aptitudes for punishing and controlling criminality.