Contact with the outside world

All prisoners have the right to receive visits


An inmate can receive up to six visits per month from authorised relatives, partners and friends. Usually visits last one hour but there can be exceptions for foreigners1.

Inmates convicted of serious crimes are entitled to four visits per month. Inmates under 41-bis regime (Mafiosi and terrorists) have additional visit restrictions (one visit per month) and no physical contact.

Visiting days and times can vary depending on the type of facility and on the type of offense committed.

  1. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “UK Prisoners in Italy: Information for families and friends”, 26 February 2016, p.4. 

To obtain a visit permit, the inmate should file an application to the Ufficio Matricola before the visit in order to ask permission to have visitors. An inmate should provide all contact information about the visitor, including passport details for foreign inmates.

After the first authorisation, the visits are granted via a reservation system. The prison administration, unlike other administrations, places de jure and de facto spouses on the same level. Social services verify their identity and relationship with the inmate beforehand. With third parties the times are longer and the choice the administration more discretionary.

Visit permits are granted

in less than one week

If the inmate is in pre-trial detention, the competent authority is the judge. Once the person has been formally convicted, this responsibility is transferred to the prison warden.

People eligible to visit

relatives, partners and friends

As a general rule, for each visit, the number of people who can be present is limited to three. However, exceptions are possible when it comes to family members. Visits are generally booked by phone.

Visits are under video surveillance without audio1. They take place, most of the time, in collective areas. In many facilities, green areas are set up outside, especially during summer. The dividing wall that was once present everywhere is prohibited since 2000. All facilities have adapted to the standard in recent years. The inmate himself usually requests the visit. Third parties must be authorised by the prison warden.

  1. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “UK Prisoners in Italy: Information for families and friends”, 26 February 2016, p.4. 

Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers


For inmates on the 41-bis regime a dividing glass is prescribed.

Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives

yes, with special requirements provided

In order to reduce the traumatism of children, there are special open spaces and dedicated areas in some prison facilities. In addition, the prison staffs dress in civilian clothes.

There are still many prison facilities with unfriendly and unsuitable visiting areas (without accommodations for children) or open spaces for family visits.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 71 visiting areas rooms for families with children, 71 playrooms and 106 spaces for meetings.

Conjugal visits are allowed


The Italian legislation does not contemplate conjugal visits. It is only mentioned that inmates can have special permission (award permission) to spend time outside of prison (ex. with his/her family or for leisure purpose).

The Milano Opera prison has built special areas called stanze dell’affettività, “rooms of affectivity”, where inmates can spend a family day.

In general, sexual practices are not allowed in prison. They may be punished as “obscene acts in public places”. This does not mean that there are no sexual practices in prisons. Antigone considers that authorities intentionally ignore this reality.

Visitors can bring clothes, food and books. Restrictions are applied to inmates under 41-bis regime.

Inmates who are placed far from their families may have the right to two additional visits if they haven’t been subject to disciplinary sanction. Nevertheless, the administration is not obliged to take this into account as a matter of priority.

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail


Italy was condemned, in 2008, by the ECtHR for preventing an inmate to communicate freely with his family and lawyer. No other complaints have been filed on this matter since.

Mail exchanged is subject to control


Envelopes are inspected in order to detect the possible presence of prohibited objects. The content of the letter is not verified. Correspondence sent/received to/from international jurisdictions cannot be controlled.

Until 2004, correspondence was subject to censorship; even that with lawyers. Italy was condemned several times by the ECtHR: Rinzinno v. Italy in 2001, Messina v.Italy n°3 in 2002. The last condemnation was in 2009 (Enea v. Italy).

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail in sealed envelopes


Prisoners are allowed to receive parcels


An inmate can receive four postal parcels (5kg max) per month. According to the internal regulations there should be a delay of 15 days between parcels delivered during visits and parcels received by post. Exceeding parcels are either returned to the sender, at the prisoner’s expense, or kept in the prison’s store room1.

There are restrictions for inmates under regime 41-bis: they cannot receive books or daily newspapers in order to avoid all communication with the outside world.

In 2017, the Italian Constitutional Court was inquired about the conformity of the restriction measures under 41-bis regime with the Italian Constitution (freedom of correspondence and thought, right for information and education) and with European Convention of Human Rights (art 3 and 8). The Court declared unfounded the questions of constitutional legitimacy. The CPT expressed its concern and requested Italian authorities to modify this legislation2.

  1. Foreign and Common Wealth Office, “Information pack for British prisoners in Italy”, 22 December 2016, p.10 

  2. Yéris Nicolas and Margaux Romano, “Les lieux privatifs de liberté en Italie : de la Cour constitutionnelle au Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture”, in La Revue des droits de l’Homme, 30 October 2017, §10,11. (In French) 

E-mail exchange is possible


Prisoners cannot have a fax or an email. Despite recent modifications to this regulation, access to the web remains less than adequate.

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls


An inmate can make up to six telephone calls per month, to relatives and other authorized people. Inmates are entitled to one 10-minute call per week.

The right to make phone calls cannot be revoked.

Prisoners are allowed to call

relatives and other authorized people

Inmates who want to receive phone calls should make a written request indicating the phone number and the identity of the person. All phone numbers must be verified. This procedure can be difficult for foreign prisoners.

Numbers and calls must be authorised by the judicial authority when the person is not definitively convicted (in which case the authorisation is issued by the prison director).

The phones are located

in the corridors

Telephones are usually located in the corridors, inside a cabin.

The cost of phone calls is in line with market prices


The cost of communication shall be borne by the prisoners.

In some facilities, prepaid phone cards are available.

Phones calls are wire tapped


Conversations of persons convicted for serious offences can be wiretapped.

The use of cell phones is authorised


The use of cell phones is allowed if there is no other possible means of communication or if they were not used in 15 previous days.

There are cases of illegal acquirement of cell phones.

  • Inmates in Naples prison have created a drug network inside, delivering drugs, mobile phones, sim cards with fictitious holders and other prohibited electronic items. An investigation shows that this traffic took place with the help of relatives, volunteers and two corrupted agents of the penitentiary police. Eleven persons are registered as suspects. The inmate accused of creating this cell phone and drug channel is being charged for the crimes of corruption and drug trafficking.

Prisoners have access to video calls with external contacts


Very few prisons have implemented the video calls. In Giudecca prison (Venezia), for example, inmates are allowed to do homework with their children via Skype1.

  1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2017, p. 68.