After long negotiations and several findings of violations by the ECtHR, Italy finally recognized torture as a crime in July 2017. However, the legal definition does not fully comply with international standards. There is also still work ahead in term of torture prevention. Prison officers still do not carry identification badges, health practitioners do not receive training to properly document signs of torture, and there is no police unit that specializes in the investigation of cases of ill-treatment.
2017 marks the second year that Italy’s prison population began to rise, after a steady decline since 2010. The prison population gained 5.4% new inmates in 2017. Since the number of offences registered in the past years has continued to go down, NGO Antigone points at harsher sentences and fewer alternatives to detention for foreign nationals as one of the main reasons for this prison population rise.
The year 2017 brought great expectations with it, since long-waited reforms were in the table of negotiations, both for the prison system and for the criminal code. Experts know that key subjects such as conjugal visits, the right to freedom of religion and a broader use of alternatives sentences will probably not receive the attention they deserve.
Yet there is still hope that the texts will reinforce the notions of dignity, non-discrimination, rehabilitation and, of course, the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degradation treatments.
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