The penitentiary system

Italian prisons are mostly classified as Casa Circondariale (CC) or Casa di Reclusione (CR). CC prisons host pre-trial, remand and short sentence prisoners, while CR prisons hold sentenced prisoners. The fact that CC prisons often have sections for sentenced detainees, and vice versa, sometimes blurs the distinction. There are five women-only prisons, three CCs and two CRs.

Prisoners who have completed prison terms but remain under secure supervision are held in either a Casa di Lavoro (CL) or Colonia Penale (CP).

Italian prisons are generally very old, with poor conditions due to lack of funding. These old prisons do not guarantee adequate living standards for detainees, despite recent decreases in overcrowding.

Bancali, a new high-security prison, was opened in Sardinia in 2015, and holds around 100 top-security prisoners including ‘41-bis’ prisoners (mafiosi and terrorists). Dedicated sections of other prisons hold a further 750 top-security prisoners around the country.

Juveniles and young adults are held across 16 juvenile detention centers (IPMs). These structures are usually well maintained, and have spaces for education and recreation. Exceptions include former prisons Cagliari and Treviso, and the old and inadequate Bologna and Catanzaro facilities.

Four prisons for the criminally insane (OPGs) house as many as 164 detainees with severe mental issues. These structures are infamous for terrible conditions, and are overdue for closure (See The sick and disabled).

Prison guards, social workers and education workers fall under the authority of the central prison administration. Health workers fall under regional medical authorities.

Italy has one of the largest prison guard populations in Europe. Paying prison guard staff amounts to almost 85% of the prison administration budget. Little is left over for prison maintenance, or for social and education staff. This funding model has led to the inconsistent presence of social and educational workers, and is linked to Italy’s especially high recidivism rates.

The system relies heavily on the many individuals and organizations working voluntarily to support detainees.

Guards-inmates ratio


Social workers-inmates ratio