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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.


  • The prison population has, in general, few economic and cultural resources.

    On the 31st of June 2018, 614 inmates had a higher education diploma; 5,208prisoners had a level of education equivalent to the baccalaureate; 18,813 had completed middle school; 6,649 had stopped at the end of primary school; 950 had no diploma and 1,019 were illiterate. For 25,506 inmates, the academic level was not been identified. Foreign inmates were 19,868.

Education is available for all prisoners


There are enormous disparities between men and women even if the law provides the right to education for everyone without distinction of gender.

  • In the period between 2016 and 2017, no female inmate graduated from a university programme, whereas 31 men graduated only in 2017.


Since the early 80s, theatre activities have been present in Italian prisons. These performances help the community know more about life in prison and contribute in the resocialisation process. Excellent examples are worth mentioning in Volterra prison (Compagnia della Fortezza) and Rebibbia prison (Teatrolibero).


An innovative project was organised, in 2017, in some prisons. The aim was to promote re - socialisation, re - education and to reduce recidivism with the use of photographic technics. Inmates were split into groups with the assistance of psychologists and photographers. They were shown different photos and were invited to tell or to draw their feelings. This intervention showed positive results like reducing depression and improving the ability to cope with trauma. There were 34 participants, with sentences ranging from 16 years to life imprisonment1.

  1. Emanuela Saita, Monica Accordini & Valentina Fenaroli, “Images behind bars: The evaluation of a photo therapeutic intervention in prison”, in World future: the journal of new paradigm research, 14 May 2018. 

  • The fourth edition of the “National Theatre in Prison Festival” took place with the collaboration of the University of Rome and other national bodies1.

    1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2017, p.72 

Solitary confinement can be used as

  • punishment
  • protection
  • security

Solitary confinement for judicial reasons can be applied by the judge during the preliminary investigations. However, the law fails to establish a specific time limit for pre-trial detainees, leaving this decision to the discretion of the judge.

Solitary confinement for life-sentenced inmates should be applied 24 hours a day. However, lifers should also be allowed to work and participate in educational activities, trainings and religious practices. In reality, they are often excluded from all common activities, especially if they are under 41-bis regime.

  • As of January 24th 2017, there were 409 inmates placed in solitary confinement.

Individual acts of protest are recorded


There were 1,089 protest movements in 2016.

Collective protest movements are quite frequent. The penitentiary police in most occasions act in a professional manner towards these protests.

Inmates who take part in collective movements cannot be subjected to criminal sanctions. However, in some cases, punitive reactions from the administration have been recorded.

Hunger strike is the most common form of protest. The reasons behind such protests are often individual (unfulfilled requests, access to work, etc.). Collective hunger strikes generally aim to denounce poor living conditions in prisons.

The public administration has a general a duty to respond to any request from a citizen. The prison administration does not have this obligation and often does not respond to requests from prisoners.

  • In September 2017, inmates in San Vittore prison (Milan) have protested against degrading detention conditions, including overpopulation. The inmates refused to participate in activities and in treatments (most of them were drogue and alcohol addicts).

Number of violent acts against prison staff


  • A 45 year-old prisoner of Slavic origin set up a fire in Ferragosto prison in August 2017. He was awaiting trial and showed signs of mental illness. After screaming for most of the night, he broke the sink, the toilet bowl and other furniture. He then started a firetorching a blanket. He then hit his cellmate with pieces of ceramic. The agents of the penitentiary police body had to intervene to stop him.

    In September 2017, in Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison, an inmate set up a fire in his cell. The incident caused serious damages. The fire destroyed some furniture and the smoke intoxicated three inmates. Some of the guards that intervened suffered medium level burns.

    On 27 November 2017, three young adults (two Moroccans and one Russian), who were incarcerated in the Turin juvenile prison, set up a fire in the cell of another inmate. The penitentiary police had to intervene to control the incident. They authors were transferred to another facility.

Number of hostage takings


  • In March 2017, a group of ten prisoners barricaded themselves for several hours in the common area of the Malaspina juvenile prison. The protesting inmates demanded more award permissions and better food quality. The penitentiary police intervened and quelled the protest. The protesters abandoned the riot and returned into their cells.

    In August 2017, after the suicide of a young Tunisian inmate, a riot in Don Bosco prison, in Pisa, broke out. The riot lasted about three hours. Inmates threw furniture and set up a fire. They were protesting against the degrading living conditions in the facility.

Number of escapes


  • A prison escape took place in the Alexandria prison in March 2017. The video surveillance system was not working properly and an inmate managed to escape while he was cleaning the outside area of the facility.

    In October 2017, three prisoners escaped from maximum-security Favigniana prison. One of them was serving a life sentence. The prison facility had been recently renovated. The inmates sawed the bars of the cell and used a rope made out of bed linens. They dropped it from the upper part of the walls to the outside. The prison is located in Favigniana island and the escapees were captured a few days later while they were trying to leave the island on a boat.

    Ismail Kammoun escaped from Volterra prison in July 2017. He was serving a life sentence for mafia crimes but was considered a detenutto modello. He showed good behaviour and had completed an academic course. He had received an award permission for good behaviour for ten days but did not come back to the prison.

Number of meals per day


Four meals are served to minors.

  • The CPT noticed, during a visit to Genoa Marassi and Turin prisons, a problem with the provision of evening meals on Sundays1.

    1. Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe (CPT), “Executive summary of the report on the periodic visit to Italy in 2016”, 2017, p.2. 

Drinking water is free and available in all areas of the facilities


The National Guarantor (NPM) has noticed there is no access to water in some prison facilities.

  • During a visit to Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison in 2016, there was no connection to the source of water. Inmates received water in small quantities (two litres per person and per day). This situation lasted for several years and created tensions between inmates during summer.

    From 3 to 9 November 2017, the NPM visited Nuoro prison. The delegation noticed that the quality of drinking water was inadequate because of the deterioration of the water pipes. Water samples for examination were collected.

    During a visit to Umbria Marche prison in 2018, the delegation noticed that the facility was lacking drinking water. The prison administration was interrupting the access for five hours per night because the facility was being renovated1.

    1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Norme e normalita. Standard per l’esecuzione penale detentiva degli adulti”, 29 January 2018, p.25-26 

Access to showers:

Access to showers may vary depending on the facility, unit or even cells within the same prison.

Inmates can take showers two or three times per week. They must queue for long periods before they can shower. In some cells, there is no running water during summer.

Hygienic conditions in showers:

When showers are located inside the cells, hygienic conditions are generally better (cleaner and with less humidity). However, showers are mostly collective.

The presence of mold due to humidity has been reported, most notably in humid environments.

  • In Teramo prison, showers in the female block are accessible at a strictly defined schedule, from 8:30-11:30 and 14:30-15:30, slots of time that overlap with those scheduled for the walk in the country yard. The shower room in the prison is in poor conditions.
    Out of the 86 facilities visited by Antigone in 2017, 50 had no showers inside the cells.

    In Seramo prisons, there is mold on the walls and no ventilation due to lack of windows. There is no hot water.
    In Taranto prison the conditions are deplorable; there are mould and damp stains on the showers walls.
    In four other facilities visited by Antigone in 2017, there was only one low wall as a separation.

There is a window in every cell. They can be entirely open but additional bars or grids are always present.

Windows are narrow in order to prevent prisoners from throwing objects through them. They are often covered by mesh and an artificial light is switched on during the day.

  • For example, the National Guarantor, during his visit to Teramo prison in 2017, noticed that in high security blocks the windows of cells and common areas were shielded, which reduced significantly the passage of natural light and air.

Elderly inmates do not benefit from any specific treatment or accommodation based on their needs. Their situations are handled on a case-by-case basis. Prison nurses are often not equipped to deal with complex diseases. The health of elderly inmates tends to be rather delicate. A simple fever can cause much more complications among elderly inmates than among adults.

In Bollate prison, young inmates are employed by the penitentiary administration in order to help fellow elderly inmates on their daily life1.

  1. Nel carcere di Bollate, trai detenuti più anziani”, in Minima&Moralia, 7 June 2017. 

  • An elderly inmate from Bollate prison (Milan) requested in several occasions to see a doctor without receiving a proper response to his request. He was later diagnosed with cancer and passed away because the treatment he received was administered too late1.

    1. Nel carcere di Bollate, trai detenuti più anziani”, in Minima&Moralia, 7 June 2017. 

The law provides early release for elderly prisoners. Starting from the age of 70, inmates have the right to replace their sentence with an alternative measure like house arrest. However, these measures are not applied frequently in practice due to strict conditions of eligibility (e.g. they cannot be applied to recidivists or persons convicted for mafia-related crimes)1.

  1. Nel carcere di Bollate, trai detenuti più anziani”, in Minima&Moralia, 7 June 2017. 

  • Toto Riina, 86 years, was imprisoned under the 41-bis regime and condemned for ordering or carrying out murder in 1992. He became seriously ill with heart problems and a renal cancer since 2011. In June 2016, his lawyer requested to change his prison regime. The request was rejected.Toto Riina never obtained his early release. He died in a hospital block reserved for prisoners in Parma.

Conditions vary from one facility to another. In general, case circondariali are more problematic than case di reclusione (for sentenced inmates). Facilities for pre-trial detention face a higher turnover and tend to be more overcrowded.

  • In 2015, Italy was sentenced by the ECtHR for excessive use of pre-trial detention, in the case Gallardo Sanchez vs. Italy. Mr. Sanchez was placed in pre-trial detention while awaiting his extradition to Greece. He was detained for one and a half year. The ECtHR considered this measure unlawful because Italian authorities did not prove sufficiently the grounds for such a long pre-trial detention period.

The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors

in some cases

Providing an individual cell to each minor is not considered as an objective to be achieved. This decision can sometimes be made if the staff considers that a minor should be placed in an individual cell. In general, this can be for reasons of order or for the well-being of minors with specific needs.

  • The detainees in Acireale prison and Catania prison have the right to personalize their own cells.

Penitentiary institutions are subject to other external oversight mechanisms:

  • Some regions introduced an independent authority similar to the NPM at a regional level. As of May 2016, 15 regions (out of a total of 20) have established their regional authority for the rights of persons deprived of liberty. Eleven authorities have been established at a provincial level and 42 at the city level.
  • The association Antigone has the right to visit all prison facilities. Of the approximately 4,000 appeals filed in the context of the Torreggiani vs. Italy case before the ECtHR for violation of Article 3 of the ECHR, approximately 1,400 cases were filed with the participation of Antigone.

The Prison Observatory or Osservatorio Carcere, established in 2006, is a structure composed by the head of Government responsible for the prison section and a working group. Itstudies the legal and practical problems of the penitentiary system, performs monitoring of prisons through visits and proposes solutions to improve the situation.

Number of complaints filed by prisoners against the prison service


/ National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2018 p.78 (in Italian)

(from 1 January 2017 to 31 March 2018)

There is no formal register with data regarding complaints, investigations or prosecutions. Antigone has strongly recommended Italian authorities to create a register for complaints.

  • In 2017, the majority of complaints were made against degrading conditions of detention (58%), violation of the right to health (19%), transfers (17%) and the right to defence(6%)1.

    1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2018 p.78. (in Italian). 

Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates

  • In March 2017, an inmate of the Mammagialla prison (Viterbo) was attacked by a group of inmates. He was hospitalized due to the injuries and was later released from prison.
    In December 2017, two men were attacked by a group of inmates in a high security block of Fuorni prison (Salerno). Victims were transferred to the hospital and one of them suffered from serious skull and face injuries.

All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged


In the Submissions to the UN Committee Against Torture, Antigone recommended to the authorities to create a single register with data regarding complaints about torture and ill-treatment1.

Italian authorities prosecute prison functionaries who are pointed as responsible for a death that is considered to be suspect.

  • Eight physicians and a psychiatrist were prosecuted for manslaughter in 2016 in a case filed by Antigone.
    The event took place in July 2012. Mr. Alfredo Liotta died in Cavadonna prison (Siracusa) from complications linked to a severe eating disorder and other psychiatric conditions. The medical staff that examined him shortly before his death considered he was simulating that condition in order to escape from prison and was thus never transferred to a hospital. The trial will take place in May 20191.

    1. Ibid. 

Suicide prevention policies are implemented


A national plan for prevention of suicides for adult and minor inmates was introduced in 2017 by the prison administration and the Ministry of Justice. It provides guidelines for data collection at a local, regional and national level that should allow to detect suicidal tendencies. Inmates at risk receive psychological support from professionals and volunteers. The prison staff should remain aware in order to detect potentially threatening situations1.

  • Andrea Cesar was found dead on the night of 26 April 2017 in Coroneo prison (Trieste). A drug overdose is supposed to be the cause. His death brought to light the lack of staff in the facility, where only one guard was on function during the night of the events for about 200 inmates. The mishandling of the healthcare service was also pointed by the penitentiary police (UILPA), stressing the fact that private operators monopolize decision-making and information about the inmates’ health profiles.

    / Il Piccolo

The prison service must notify a judicial authority for

all deaths

According to the decree 230 of the President of the Republic (June 2000), a doctor should present a report to the prison warden after each death. The report should be transferred to the authorities.

  • In 2017, the UN Committee Against Torture invited Italian authorities to ensure that deaths in pre-trial detention are promptly and impartially investigated by an independent body.