Special populations

Female prisoners

4.2 % (2,402)

Out of 7,106 inmates convicted for mafia association, 134 were women.

/ Antigone, “Annual Report”, 2017 (in Italian)

Variation in the number of female prisoners

an increase of 5.6%

2,285 women were incarcerated in 2016.

Percentage of untried female prisoners

17.9 %

430 women were in pre-trial detention in 2017.


Percentage of foreign female prisoners

4.5 %

Out of 97 women detained for prostitution offences, 86 were foreigners.


The places where women prisoners are held are of several kinds:

  • penal institutions exclusively for women (4)
  • units exclusively for women (150)

The occupancy rate of women prisons is 105%. Some female facilities are more overcrowded than others.

For example, Pozzuoli prison has an occupancy rate of 130%. One cell, designed for five inmates, was accommodating 13 women in January 2017.

In Rebibbia prison the occupancy rate is 119%.

Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison does not take into account the specific needs of women. Prison staff is not specialized in gender-focused issues and there is no central office dedicated to protecting the rights of women in prisons. Hygiene conditions are often inadequate and there is no guarantee of essential provisions, including tampons or gynecological care.

According to the National Guarantor, women do not have a large variety of job offers; they tend to respond to gender stereotypes: cooking or sewing. Men benefit from more job opportunities (e.g. printing activities).

Conjugal visits are allowed for women


Conjugal visits are not contemplated in the law.

For more information, see “Visits” section.

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells

in some cases

The law does not provide for the placement of pregnant women in a special block or cell. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

The legislation provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women or women with young children


Pregnant women can have alternative measures to detention (e.g. home detention). It is possible to execute the pre-trial detention (not more than 18 months) at the inmate’s domicile or another address.

Women with children under the age of 10 can benefit from sentence adjustment if they have served 1/3 of their sentence. Women convicted to a life sentence are eligible for sentence adjustment after having served 15 years.

Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Article 19 of the penitentiary code provides for a specialized medical care for pregnant women in prison.

In practice, it depends on the stage of the pregnancy. If the prison staff can provide care, the pregnant woman usually stays in prison. There should be a wing for pregnant women and women with children. Pregnant women might, in reality, remain in a regular wing up to a certain stage of the pregnancy. They can also receive a temporary suspension of the sentence or be sent to a hospital and remain there up to a certain moment after the pregnancy.

Childbirth takes place in

outside care facilities

It is preferred that childbirths take place in an external facility.

Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, up to 3 years old

Women with children are accommodated in ICAMS (Istituto a custodia attenuata per detenute madri) or in prison nurseries.

In 2017, there were 58 women with 70 children. Whilst these facilities are still prisons, there are no barriers.

Security staff working in the child section wears civilian clothing to ensure the emotional wellbeing of the children.

The penitentiary administration takes into account the specific needs of children. Cells that host minors are most often open. In general, they are also decorated and equipped for children.

The specific offences that lead to the incarceration of women are offences against property, against persons and drug-related offences, followed by those against the administration of justice, public faith and public administration.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

14 years

Incarcerated minors

0.7 % (425)
/ Ministry of Justice, “Flussi di utenza degli Istituti penali per i minorenni Situazione Nazionale”, 2017. (in Italian)

In 2017, the out of the total number of minors under the youth offenders service :

  • 425 minors were incarcerated
  • 66 minors were under alternative measures in the community
  • 1 minor was under conditional release
  • 53 minors were in home detentions

Variation in the number of incarcerated minors

a decrease of 14.3%

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice

The Department of Juvenile Justice and Community is in charge of the implementation of juvenile justice.

Minors are subject to a specific justice system. They are judged by juvenile courts. There are special prisons for minors who committed an offence between 14 and 18 years of age. They stay there until they reach the age of 21, when they are transferred to an adult prison. The penitentiary administration for minors is separated from the one that deals with adults.

Alternative measures to detention can be applied: probation, assistance by social services, semi-detention or early release.

All minor offenders are placed in special institutions named IPMs.

There are 16 Juvenile prisons (IPMs) dedicated to “young offenders” (aged 14-18) and “young adults” (aged 18-25) who commit offences while underage. Incarceration should be applied as a last resort.

Figures on minors in prison are published

on a regular basis

Minors in prison are separated from adults

in some cases

The law states that there should be a separation between adults and those under 25 years of age. The separation between the two groups depends most of the times on the facility’s capacity and can occasionally be infringed. This situation can create tensions between the two groups. Young adults (up to 25 years of age) are almost never placed in separate cells from other adults.

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.

The schooling of minors is compulsory


Education is mandatory for minors. According to Antigone, in all the IPMs visited there was a primary school and literacy courses for foreigners. In addition, there are also secondary education courses. These courses are given by teachers or professors from colleges/secondary schools or by regional CPIA (Provincial centres for education of adults).

Starting from 16 years of age, minors can choose either to continue education, begin to work or be enrolled in professional training courses. These courses give the possibility to obtain certificates attesting the skills acquired. The courses taught can be cooking, baking or jewellery, made in Milan prison, gardening and farming, carpentry workshops and crafting activities, courses on electrical systems and construction activities (e.g. in Acireale prison).

Young offenders detained in IPMs are generally offered schooling (e.g. literacy courses for foreigners) and the opportunity to attend university level classes, vocational training and other types of activities. It may happen that short sentences do not allow children to been rolled in courses. The offer varies according to the IPM. Nisida, Bari and Palermo prisons are known for proposing a more enriched program of activities than other facilities that count with fewer resources.

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


Solitary confinement can be applied as a disciplinary sanction.

Minors have an access to various activities. For example, in Acireale prison, minors do sport six hours per week and receive personalized training at the gym. Sports competitions and collective games are sometimes organised.

The music project “Power of Words” was organised in 2016 in the Cesare Beccaria prison in Milan. The project consisted in a series of rap workshops, concerts, meetings with writers or working in the prison’s library.

In Bologna prison, the “Pratello” theatre promotes the social integration of incarcerated minors and adults in difficulty through drama, writing and all forms of creative arts.

Outside organisations can intervene with minors. For example, in Acireale prison , a project with the association Youth and School, named “Un pallone di Speranza”, aims to teach boys various rules and aspects of football.

In Malaso di Palermo prison a bakery was opened with the help of association Rigenerazioni Onlus. The aim was to give work opportunities and prepare minors to become skilled and independent workers after their release from prison.

Moreover, The Social Service for Minors (USSM) provides social assistance for minors while they serve their sentence. Cooperation with social bodies, schools and local authorities is established.

Prison officers do not have specific training in the supervision of minors. The system for minors is generally considered more suitable than that for adults, but deficiencies are still to be found. The guarantee system is more developed than that of adults. The living environment is more outward looking. In order to reduce the trauma of minors and young adults, prison staff does not wear uniforms.

Some institutions are in bad conditions, like Quartucciu prison. The reconstruction of one of the three blocks was abandoned since 2007 due to lack of funding; prison cells are cold without heating; the common area is used as canteen and the facility lacks furniture.

Number and percentage of foreign prisoners

34.3 % (19,745)
/ Ministry of Justice, “Foreigners”, 31 December 2017 (in Italian)

Foreigners face harsher sentences and fewer alternatives to detention. As of August 2017, the rate of foreigners in pre-trial detention was higher than that of Italians (41.8% to 31.3%). Data provided by the Ministry of Justice show that the application of alternative measures to detention for foreigners is lower than for Italians. In 2017, 17% of foreigners, out of the total number of inmates, received an alternative measure to detention. There is a slight increase of 0.7% compared to the previous year1.

  1. Human Rights Committee, “Concluding observation on the sixth periodic report on Italy”, 1 May 2017, p. 6 

Variation in the number of foreign prisoners

an increase of 6%

The most common nationalities in prison are Albanians (13.2%),Moroccans (18.8%), Romanians (13.1%) and Tunisians (10.8%).

Women come from countries such as Romania (25%), Nigeria (21%), Bosnia (5%), Morocco (4%), Brazil and Bulgaria (3%).

The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter


Access cannot be provided in many cases due to the lack of funding. There is a lack of translators and cultural mediators. Prison staff sometimes have problems communicating with foreign inmates.

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


They have the same rights as Italian citizens. To benefit from a legal aid of the State, foreigners need to respond to certain criteria. For non-EU nationals, the consulate must certify that the applicant’s income is insufficient even in the country of origin (11,500 Euros). The consular authorities’ failure to timely proceed with the certification may constitute an obstacle to the applicant’s access to legal defense1.

  1. Ministry of Justice, “Practical information: legal aid in criminal proceedings”, 23 March 2018. (in Italian) 

Illegal residence is not punishable with imprisonment but with administrative detention.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to remain in the country after having served their sentence

under certain circumstances

Expulsion can be applied as an additional penalty that begins after the person has served the penal sanction1.

  1. Ministry of Justice, “Charter of Prisoners and Internees Rights and Duties”, 2012, p.20. 

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


Italian legislation mentions that all inmates have this right.

Foreign prisoners can make phone calls to their home country. All foreign numbers have to be verified by the penitentiary administration.

For more information see “Phone Calls” section.

The length of the visit can be extended for visitors coming from abroad. However, the decision depends solely on the will of the penitentiary administration.

The relatives of foreign minors do not have a special regime of visits.

According to the observations made by Antigone, if a foreign community settles in Italy for a long period the incarceration rate of persons from this community will be lower than that of communities that have settled recently. The reason is that the community becomes an integral part of the Italian society. Consequently, the risk for its members being jailed decreases. Chinese, Filipinos and Ukrainians have incarceration rates almost the same as that of Italians. The incarceration rate of Moldovans, Romanians and Ethiopians is only slightly higher.

Foreigners represent 31% of the total number of prisoners who have committed crimes against the person. They are also convicted for minor offences (drug or prostitution-related crimes, as well as violation of immigration laws).

1.1% of foreign inmates are convicted for criminal association with the mafia1.

  1. Antigone, “Annual report”, 2017. (in Italian). 

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of

5 years

Five years would be the formal definition of a long sentence, but a person with a 10 to 15 years sentence has a different detention regime. This distinction is only made based on the type of facility that inmates are placed in. Inmates are placed in a specific facility for long sentences if they are sentenced to five years or more. In reality, there is no legal definition of a long sentence. Antigone considers a sentence that exceeds three years to be long.

Cumulative sentences have a limit


Toto Riina, an ancient chief of the Cosa Nostra, was condemned to 26 life sentences.

There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners


Inmates who execute long sentences are placed in case di reclusione. This distinction can be blurred when facilities are overcrowded. The casa di lavoro (CL) and colonia penale (CP) hold persons who have completed prison terms but remain detained for security reasons. There is one CL in Vasto, which held 161 prisoners in 2017. The CP of Isili was transformed into a casa di reclusione, a facility for long sentences, in 2016.

Job opportunities are allocated to people with longer sentences.

For more details on the security regimes under which some people executing long sentences are placed, see “Security measures”

Life sentences are banned


People serving a life sentence

3 % (1,735)

900 do not have a real possibility to be released.

/ Ministry of Justice, “Detenuti condannati per penainflitta”, 31 December 2017 (in Italian)

Variation in the number of people serving a life sentence

an increase of 2.8%

The crimes punishable with a life sentence are, amongst others: murder, attempts against the President of the Republic, terrorism, criminal association with the mafia.

The detention regime of people condemned to a life sentence is similar to that of inmates who execute long sentences. This regime is not officially provided for in the law. Single cells are provided to persons executing life sentences. Solitary confinement from six months to three years is imposed to offenders who committed several crimes. There is a special detention regime for organised crime offences, terrorism or mafia that is called regime 41-bis. The system was specifically intended to cut off inmates from their former criminal associates.

Inmates that show good behavior may request a sentence adjustment after 26 years of sentence served.

Prisoners serving life sentences for specific crimes like mafia or terrorism are sentenced with ergastolo ostativo (life imprisonment without parole) if they do not cooperate with justice.

Lifers can make an appeal if a new piece of evidence is found. This provision applies to every person who faces a criminal conviction.

Percentage of untried prisoners

16.7 % (9,634)
/ Ministry of Justice, “Detenuti presenti per posizione giuridica”, 31 December 2017 (in Italian)

As of 31 December 2017, nearly 10,000 inmates had not yet received a first conviction. Ten thousand others had not received a definitive conviction. Almost 35% of inmates are awaiting trial

Variation in the number of untried prisoners

an increase of 3.1%

Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


Pre-trial detainees should be placed in special blocks or prisons named casa circondariale1.

The separation between different categories of inmates is not respected at times due to prison overcrowding. Only prisoners formally sentenced can be the object of formal penitentiary treatment.

In many case circondariali prisoners have to undergo a harsher penitentiary regime with almost all time spent in closed cells (up to 23 hours per day).

  1. Case Circondariali (CC) hold pre-trial prisoners/remand prisoners and prisoners with short sentences. 

The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


There is a general over-use of pre-trial detention.

The duration of pre-trial detention is limited. It cannot be longer than two years for criminal offences punished with imprisonment up to six years.

A four-years pre-trial detention period can be applied for criminal offences punished with sentences of up to 20 years. Six years may be applied to even more serious offences.

It is not possible to apply a pre-trial detention measure if the judge does not consider that the final conviction will be longer than 3 years or if the criminal offence is punished with a maximum sentence of 5 years, excluding offences related to illegal financing of political parties1.

  1. Antigone, “The practice of pre-trial detention in Italy: research report”, September 2015, pp.15-17. 

It is possible to appeal against a pre-trial detention decision. Appeals tend to be more effective than first decisions. Detainees can ask for a revision of their status at any moment. Important information can be better taken into account during the appeal because first decisions tend to be made rapidly. In many cases, lawyers do not have enough time to prepare the defence.

Untried prisoners have very limited access to work. Priority is given to inmates who have already been sentenced, even if pre-trial detention often lasts several years. Communications with the outside world, whether by telephone or through visits, must be authorised by the judicial authority (and not by the prison warden).

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.

Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed


Official statistics include Italians and foreign prisoners. Subgroups identifying regional origins and different nationalities also exist

Minority or indigenous backgrounds are criteria for specific cell or unit assignment

in some cases

Inmates should not be placed according to their ethnical background unless security needs require it. In practice, there is a tendency to hold inmates of the same ethnic origin together. Prisons are often filled with small groups that can be hostile against each other1.

  1. Cinelli Virginia, “Radicalization in prison: Italian case”, in Sicurezza Terrorismo Società, n°7, 2018, p.94. 

The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned


LGBTQI+ persons are separated from other prisoners

in most cases

Protective solitary confinement is not contemplated by Italian law. However, it is frequently used in order to protect LGBTI inmates. They are often held separately in blocks assigned to inmates who have committed serious criminal offences (e.g. violence against children, sexual violence) or inmates who belong to a particular category (e.g. police forces).

Current Italian legislation does not take into account specific conditions and needs of LGBTI inmates. They are very often not acknowledged by other inmates or by the prison staff. Cases of physical violence are sometimes brought to light.

LGBTI prisoners are often excluded from all activities and do not even take part in religious celebrations. They find themselves in a de facto solitary confinement regime in order to protect them from other inmates1.

The problems LGBTI prisoners face concern mainly the lack of space, activities and work opportunities.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their biological sex

Transgender women spend their sentence in prison facilities for men.

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care

in some cases

There is no legislation that ensures hormone treatment for transgender persons in prison. They can, since recently, ask for a shipment of hormones upon arrival in prison

Conjugal visits are allowed for LGBTQI+ prisoners


The Italian legislation does not contemplate conjugal visits.

For more information see “Visits” section.

The National Guarantor (Italian NPM) considers that LGBTI segregation from other inmates leads to the violation of their dignity. It is important to find, as much as possible, alternative measures to imprisonment. While visiting the LGBTI block of Triveneto and Gorizia prisons, the delegation noticed that LGBTI inmates were being placed under solitary confinement and were therefore being denied the possibility of rehabilitation1.

  1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2017, p.85. 

The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners


Number and percentage of elderly prisoners

7.8 % (4,476)
/ Ministry of Justice, “Prisoners by age”, 31 December 2017 (in Italian)

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.

Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities

some establishments

According to Antigone, only 30% of the visited facilities had the necessary infrastructures for persons with disabilities (Antigone visited 86 out of the 190 prisons of the country)1.

There are only two prisons, Bari and Parma, that have departments for physical and motor disabilities2.

Inmates with spinal paralysis or partial mobility3 are incapable of autonomously perform daily tasks

  1. Otto cose sulle carceri italiane”, in Post, 20 April 2018. 

  2. Antigone, “Annual Report”, 2016. (in Italian) 

  3. Ibid. 

Inmates with physical disabilities are usually taken care of by fellow inmates due to the lack of medical staff. They receive a salary called piantone.

Death penalty is abolished


The death penalty is abolished in general law since 1948. It was repealed from the military code in 1994 and from the Constitution in 2007.