Physical integrity

The death penalty was abolished for peacetime crimes (Italian Constitution art. 27) in 1948; additionally, capital punishment was abolished for crimes committed in times of war in 1994.

Prisoner suicide is one of the biggest problems the Italian prison system faces. There are not enough risk prevention programs. Almost all prisoners who commit suicide do so by hanging themselves.

The suicide rate in detention in Italy (7,4/10 000) has decreased over the past five years, but remains higher than the EU average of 5/10 000. There were 42 prisoner suicides in 2015, the lowest number recorded since 2000.

In 2015, 20 prisoners died due to illness, three due to drug overdose and one was murdered. There were 17 prisoners for whom the cause of death was not found, among them 29-year-old Stefano Borriello, who died in the Pordedone penitentiary. In up to 20 cases, the cause of death is still being investigated.   

A public debate over prisoner access to mental healthcare, and the large number of prisoners being held in isolation, was ignited after the suicide of a prisoner in Pagliarelli prison in Palermo. Prisoners at risk of suicide in Pagliarelli have reportedly been deprived blankets and basic bedding, in order to prevent attempts.

Number of deaths



Suicide rate in detention



Organizations are advocating for torture to be made a crime, which is not at the moment. Since 2001, Italy has seen a handful of high profile cases of severe prisoner ill-treatment amounting to torture. In 2015, two of these cases came before the European Court of Human Rights in violation of Article 3, which concerns inhuman and degrading treatment.   

The first case concerns two detainees tortured by prison guards at Asti prison in 2004, while the second concerns 31 detainees tortured by guards at Bolzaneto prison in 2001. The Italian government offered compensation to the victims in both cases, voiding the need for the court to make a full judgment.   

Two cases of ill treatment are currently before the courts. The more prominent is that of Rachid Assarag, who secretly recorded guards openly discussing beating him and other detainees in Prato. The second case concerns violence against prisoners at Marassi prison in Genoa, and has led to the investigation of 13 prison workers, including guards, officials and medics.

No cases of arbitrary or secret detention have been reported.