In Italian prisons, violence and torture are not the only problems

In Italian prisons, violence and torture are not the only problems

In Italian prisons

The overcrowding of prisons has reached 113%, with more than 53 thousand people occupying about 47 thousand available places. The suicide rate is also on the rise, which in 2020 was the highest in recent years

Detained in the Regina Coeli prison in Rome. (photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / Getty Images) Mass violence and torture are not the only emergencies to be faced in Italian prisons. The "real crowding" rate of the Italian prison system reached 113% in June 2021, with 53,637 people occupying the approximately 47,000 seats actually available and, in 2020, the suicide rate among prisoners reached the highest number of last years . After the shocking images of the massacres that took place in the institute of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, the Antigone association for the protection of rights and guarantees in the criminal and penitentiary system has published the latest monitoring on the conditions of Italian prisons.

Out of 189 prisons throughout the country and 117 the employment rate is over 100%, with peaks of 200% as in the case of the Brescia prison. To improve the condition, according to the Antigone report, it would be enough to incentivize alternative measures to detention, to which at least 20 thousand inmates could access immediately. The data relating to drug use are also very high. At least one in four inmates, on average, have drug addiction problems and the number has increased by 10% over the past 15 years, with more and more people in prison for drug offenses, currently around 15%. According to Antigone, an effective strategy to decongest prisons should begin with the modification of the law on drugs and the decriminalization of certain substances. Decriminalization that would be in line with the latest decisions made by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which has removed cannabis from the list of substances dangerous to humans and is advocating its decriminalization.

Monitoring is it also focuses on the material conditions of life in prisons, which contribute to improving or worsening the mental health of people in prison. In 42% of the institutions, the windows of the cells are equipped with screens that prevent the passage of natural light and the recirculation of air. In 36% of prisons there are cells without showers (contrary to the provisions of the Penitentiary Regulations of 2000) and in 31% the cells lack hot water. In addition, due to the pandemic, 24% of institutions have switched from open cell to closed cell regime, for which inmates are forced to always live in the same small space, sometimes without recirculation of air, natural light. and possibility to wash. These conditions contribute to an increase in self-harm and extreme suicide cases. In the Florence Sollicciano prison alone, 105 episodes of self-harm have occurred per 100 inmates, while suicides have already been 18 since the beginning of 2021, adding to the 62 in 2020.

“It is necessary to radically rethink provisions of the prisons, paying particular attention to the challenges that we cannot foresee, as in the case of the pandemic ”stated the representatives of Antigone during the presentation of the report. Addressing the government, the association has asked for the immediate introduction of cameras that "also cover gorges, stairs, areas of disciplinary isolation" and that agents wear the famous "identification codes" to ensure the recognition of agents, which is so crucial. for investigations into prison abuses and those committed outside.

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