Brazil's justice minister said Tuesday that he would prefer death to serving a long sentence in one of his country's prisons.

"I if had to spend many years in one of our prisons, I would rather die," Jose Eduardo Cardozo said at a gathering of business leaders in Sao Paulo.

After describing Brazil's prisons as inadequate to the task of rehabilitating criminals, he told the executives: "I have to improve the system, to fulfill my task."

Cardozo's comments followed a report issued in June by a U.N. panel that spotlighted terrible conditions in some Brazilian prisons and recommended the immediate closure of Ary Franco penitentiary in Rio de Janeiro state.

The document detailed cases of torture and other inmate abuse at Ary Franco and characterized the cells as filthy and bug-infested. EFE