Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)


/ Antigone

The authorities publish official statistics on prison population

on a regular basis

Monthly, biannual and annual statistics are available on the website of the Ministry of Justice.

The prison service has a computerised record keeping system


Total number of prisoners


/ Ministry of Justice, “Prison population” (in Italian)

Italy’s prison population downward trend reversed in 2016 for the first time since 2010. The number of inmates increased to 57,608.

According to the observations of Antigone, the rise of prison population is not related to the number of offences registered that year. In 2016, there were 47,323 entries in prison, 1,500 more than in 2015. Nevertheless, there were 200,000 less offences registered than during the previous year1.

One of the reasons that explain overpopulation is the overrepresentation of foreigners in prison (up to 38%). According to the submission of Antigone to the UN Committee against Torture in 2017, the main reason for overpopulation was the migration crisis that started in 2016.

  1. Antigone, “One year in prison. XIV Report on: press release”, 19 April 2018, p.4. 

Number of people serving non-custodial sentences


/ Antigone

Including :

  • 16,694 persons in affidamento in prova ai servizi sociali (probation services).
  • 11,151 under house arrest.
  • 7,369 in a program involving community service.
  • 904 in semi-freedom (under the authority of prison staff).
  • 3,831 in vigilant freedom (under police control).
  • 183 in controlled release (police control).
  • 4 in semi-detention (control of prison police personnel).

Number of admissions


There were 1,500 entries more than in 2015.

/ Antigone

Average length of imprisonment (in months)


/ Antigone

Prison density

105.4 %

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

Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities


Some facilities are more overcrowded than others. For example, the prison facility in Como shows an overcrowding rate of 200%, the one in Taranto is of 190.5%1.

In general, facilities for pre-trial detention tend to be more overcrowded.

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

The country has been condemned by an international court for its prison overcrowding

yes, the ECtHR

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concluded the violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2009, in the case of Sulejmanovic v. Italy, linked to the lack of space in cells. The government granted special powers to local prison administrations and ordered the construction of 18 prisons.

In 2013, Italy was once again the object of a finding of violation by the ECtHR for overcrowding and inhumane living conditions in the Torreggiani vs. Italy case. The occupancy rate was, at that time, 149%. The court issued a pilot judgement that required Italy to enact reforms to reduce prison overcrowding.

A supervisory body has issued a decision on prison overcrowding


In 2016, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe (CPT) visited Italy and stressed the fact that prison facilities were still overcrowded even if the Italian government had made efforts to reduce its prison population.

After the Torreggiani vs. Italy case in 2013, Italian authorities introduced new reforms that set out a wider range of alternative measures to detention. A system that promoted probation with rehabilitation programs over strict prison sentences was implemented.

The new reforms reduced the average length of pre-trial detention and increased the number of days attributed to sentences’ adjustment measures for good behaviour from 45 to 75 days per semester. For foreign prisoners, the last two years of the prison sentence were replaced by compulsory expulsion to the country of origin. The penalties for drug-related offences (possession of small quantities of drugs)1 were also reduced.

One more measure was the messa alla prova, introduced for crimes penalized with no more than four years of detention. The convicted person had the possibility to require the suspension of criminal proceedings. If the request was accepted, s/he would be put on probation under the supervision of social services and under a special program, which compelled the reparation of the damage caused2.

  1. Antigone, “Submissions to the UN Committee against Torture concerning Italy”, 6 Nov.-6 Dec. 2017, p.12. 

  2. Ibid. 

Name of authority in charge of the prison service

Ministry of Justice

The website of the Ministry of Justice provides information on each prison facility (capacity, prison conditions, work, activities, educational and training courses).

There are several detention regimes:

  • The most restrictive is the 41-bis , the summonses/classification is reviewed every two years by the judicial authority. It is possible to request a revision before this period.
  • The Alta Sicurezza regime. The decision is made by the Department of Penitentiary Administration on the basis of several elements: needs for prison treatment, links with the reference criminal organisation, information obtained by the public prosecutor and the judicial authority, etc.
  • The common semi-opened regime.

For more information see “Security measures”.

Inmates condemned for Islamic terrorism are subject to a special and restrictive detention regime (named AS2).

The different categories of penal institutions are the following:

  • Case di reclusione for sentenced inmates
  • Case Circondariali for pre-trial /remand prisoners and prisoners with short sentences.
  • Penal institutions for women
  • Istituti penali per i minorenni (IPM) for juvenile offenders
  • Penal institutions for long sentences (case di reclusione)

Total number of prison facilities


190 penal institutions for adults, 4 for women only and 16 for minors.


Total official capacity of the prison facilities


/ Council of Europe, “Annual Penal Statistics”, 2018.

The website of the Ministry of Justice provides information on each prison facility (capacity, prison conditions, work, activities, educational and training courses).

Antigone publishes information about its visits to different prison facilities.

Variation in the capacity of the prison facilities

an increase of 0.5%

In 2016, there were 50,228 places. Additional places were created in some facilities, for example 200 in Caltagirone and 97 in Nuoro1.

The size of the penal institutions varies significantly. Most facilities have between 100 and 500 places.

The biggest is Poggioreale prison (Napoli) with 1,659 places and the smallest is Grosetto prison, with capacity for 14 inmates when actually holding 24 persons.

Prison facilities are accessible by public transport


Prisons were progressively moved from urban to rural areas after the second half of the last century.

Renewal of prison buildings:

Some prisons are in obsolete conditions. Some blocks have been renovated and others are in dilapidated conditions. Some prisons were built in the XVIII century but are in general good conditions, whereas some new facilities are in poor conditions because there have been no renovations.

Savona prison was closed in January 2016. On the other hand, 200 new places should be opened in Parma and in Lecce prisons in 2018. The project of building a new prison in San Vito al Tagliamento (300 places) should be approved in 2018.

The negotiations concerning the construction of a new prison in Bolzano and the construction of 220 additional places are currently on hold.

Tendering offers are being negotiated to restructure Milano’s San Vittore and Napoli prisons. The project to restructure Livorno’s prison has been suspended1.

There are many institutions that had other functions before they became prisons (e.g. former convents, etc.). These are generally the oldest buildings, some of which date back to several centuries.

The IPM in Bologna is an ancient monastery with structural problems (narrow corridors; lack of space for common areas). Moreover, the building is a cultural heritage site and this complicates any project that might seek to bring structural changes

The Busto Arsizio prison was built in 1985. Some sections have been refurnished but the facility is rather in precarious conditions. The main applicants in the Torreggiani vs. Italy case were serving their sentence in this prison. Cells are very small (less than 3 m² per person). The only kitchen is in poor conditions: the floors are damaged and in many places the wall and floor tiles are missing.

Variation in the number of prison guard positions


/ Ministry of Economy and Finance, “Il budgeto dello Stato per il triennio 2017-2019”, February 2017, p. 142. (in Italian)

Guard to prisoner ratio

1 : 1.7


Number of socio-educational workers (FTE)



The prison staff is represented by (a) union(s)


Officers of penitentiary police have their own trade union.

The right to strike is protected by Article 40 of the Italian Constitution. Officers of the penitentiary police cannot participate in strikes while on duty, for security reasons.

Prison officers are required to undergo training. There are ten training schools for security and administrative prison staff. The General Directorate of Personnel and Training Office offers initial training and delegates some courses to the regional school boards. In order to organise professional trainings, there is an annual plan for professional training of the prison administration.

There is a special master’s degree in Prison Act and the Constitutional Charter (in collaboration with the university of “Roma Tre”). This programme includes trainings within the Italian prison system and the possibility to implement new technologies during the execution of the sentence (e.g. electronic tagging). There is also practice of professional skills, the ones required to prevent radicalization and to implement the solutions to reduce it for example1.

  1. National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, “Report to Parliament”, 2017, p.66. 

Prison guards, social workers and educators respond to the central prison administration. Health workers are all under the responsibility of regional medical authorities.