Beyond the prison bars. Ten years of pardons, prison-emptying and alternative measures to detention: what’s the current situation when it comes to prison overcrowding?

Foto Oltre le sbarre.  10 anni di indulti, “svuota carceri” e misure alternative alla detenzione: a che punto siamo col sovraffollamento penitenziario?

The National Guarantor of Detainees' report to Parliament, on 21 March of last year, documented "unacceptable" criticalities in the Italian prison system: "Overcrowding has, in some cases, exceeded the original capacity by almost 300%", "the quality profile of detention is concerning", "a significant number of suicides and attempted suicides", vis-à-vis a rising trend in the number of detainees and "slowdown of releases from prison, namely, of alternative measures".

The first six months of 2017 have confirmed the trend pointed out by the Guarantor: with almost 57,000 inmates at 30 June 2017, prison crowding is at 113% of capacity (113 detainees per 100 places available), 5% up compared 2016. In eight regions the figure exceeds 120%. In Apulia, it has reached 148%, nearing the index that in 2013 led the European Court of Human Rights to condemn Italy over the "inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees: the serious shortage of space (less than 3 square metres per capita), compounded by the lack of hot water and inadequate lighting and ventilation of the prison cells represent a violation of article 3 of the European Convention, "prohibition of torture".

Parliament and government have introduced a number of measures, over the past ten years, to address the emergency: pardons, prison construction plans, prison-emptying decrees, alternative measures to detention. The results have not always met expectations. What measures turned out to be the most efficient ones? Where did the biggest problems arise?


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