Special populations

Female prisoners

4.4 % (2,702)

Variation in the number of female prisoners

increase of 14.9%

Increase observed between 2015 and 2020. On 28 February 2015, there were 2,352 incarcerated women.

Percentage of untried female prisoners

32.7 %


Percentage of foreign female prisoners

36.42 %


As of 29 February 2020, there were 984 foreign women in Italian prisons. Among these foreign women, the highest-represented nationalities were Romanian (217) and Nigerian (183).

Women are housed in gender-specific sections of facilities that house both men and women or in the country’s four correctional facilities for women:

  • two jails: Pozzuoli (Naples) and Rebibbia Femminile (Rome)
  • two prisons: Venezia Giudecca and Trani.
  • The four women’s correctional facilities housed a total of 669 inmates in 2019 — including 260 foreign women.

There is an effective separation between men and women


Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison staff is

exclusively female

Hygiene conditions are often deemed unsatisfactory and essential products are not guaranteed (e.g. tampons, OB/GYN care, etc.)

Work opportunities available to women are consistently less diverse and numerous than those available to men.

Conjugal visits are allowed for women


The law does not mention conjugual visits.

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells


The law does not require that pregnant women are placed in specific cells. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

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


Pregnant women could benefit from alternative forms of incarceration, particularly house arrest. The conditions to qualify for a sentence adjustment are:

  • having children less than ten years old
  • having served one third of their sentence, or 15 years in the case of a life sentence.

Certain measures can be taken for women several months into their pregnancy, such as a temporary reprieve or a transfer to a hospital.

Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Childbirth takes place in

external care facility

Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, until three years of age

Specific wings are designated for women with children — the Attenuated Custody Institutions for Detained Mothers (Istituti a custodia attenuata per detenute madri, ICAM). They have larger cells and are organised in a semi-open regime . Oftentimes, a childcare centre allows women to work during the day.

In ICAM, the prison administration distributes supplementary provisions (food, personal hygiene products…), and further authorises cell decoration and provides social workers and psychologists.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

14 years

Incarcerated minors

0.3 % (161)

This figure represents minors between the ages of 14 and 17. Young adults (18-24 years old) convicted for acts committed before the age of majority are separated from other inmates. As of 15 February 2020, there were 213 young adults incarcerated — 25 of them were women or girls. Additionally, 166 minors and young adults in Italian prisons are from abroad.

Variation in the number of incarcerated minors

12.8% decrease

between 2015 and 2020.

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice

Juvenile Justice Department (Dipartimento per la giustizia minorile)

Minors are subject to a specific justice system. Their cases are evaluated in closed proceedings by the juvenile tribunal (tribunali per i minorenni) and by the juvenile appellate court (corte d’appello per i minorenni).

Specific sentences or rulings are reserved for minors, such as probation or an alternative sentence served in a home or a community centre. (comunità).

  • As of 15 February 2020, there were 13,384 sentences and trials of minors and young adults.

Convicted minors serve their sentences in specific correctional facilities (referred to as istuti penali per i minorenni, IPM). The country has 17 of these facilities.
Untried minors generally pass through processing centres (centri di prima accoglienza, CPA). These facilities also carry out other social functions. These minors are not counted in carceral statistics.

Figures on minors in prison are published

every month

Minors in prison are separated from adults


The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors

in some cases

Single cell accommodation is not considered to be a priority. Whether or not to place a minor alone in a cell is up to prison staff. The decision is generally based on practical considerations or special needs of the child.

The schooling of minors is compulsory


Primary and secondary programmes are available.

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


Solitary confinement is used as a disciplinary measure against minors.

The majority of juvenile detention centres (JDC) are in city centres or suburban neighbourhoods. The only exception is the Nisida juvenile facility, located on an islet 40 minutes from Naples by car and inaccessible by public transport. The Turin JDC is the newest, unveiled in 2013. The JDCs in Bologna, Florence and Palermo were built into historic buildings.

Only two facilities, those in Nisida and Rome, are not single-sex. Establishment capacity can vary drastically. The facilities in Caltanissetta and Pontremoli can hold 12 people. The JDCs in Nisida and Rome, however, can host as many as 50 minors. The Treviso JDC is part of a larger facility where adults are also incarcerated.

Outdoor spaces, sports fields, and vegetable gardens are often available, as is the case in Rome and Nisida. In Cagliari, minors can meet with loved ones in gazebos in the courtyard of the establishment. An outdoor pool is available during the summer months in Milan.

The majority of cells have two to four beds; their size varies by establishment. Occupants are generally free to decorate them. Adjoining sanitary sections with toilets and showers are always nearby. But, in Treviso, showers are installed above toilets without toilet bowls. Religious services take place at a catholic church.

The kitchen is often adapted to accommodate vocational education. All JDCs have multipurpose rooms, libraries, classrooms, workshops and, sometimes, game rooms. Visiting rooms are always shared.

JDCs offer numerous activities, such as cultural and religious mediation, plastic arts workshops, carpentry and various sports. The array of activities offered to minors is generally more diverse than what is offered to adults.

Number and percentage of foreign prisoners

32.5 % (19,899)

Details: As of 29 February 2020, Moroccan prisoners represent 18.6% of the foreign prison population. This is followed by Romanians and Albanians who represent 11.9% and 11.8% of said population, respectively. Other highly represented nationalities include Tunisians at 9.9% and Nigerians at 8.6%.

Variation in the number of foreign prisoners

increase of 14%

Increase observed between 2015 and 2020. There are 17,463 foreign prisoners as of 28 February 2015.

The most represented nationalities are Moroccan, Romanian, Albanian, Tunisian and Nigerian.

Foreign prisoners are informed of their right to communicate with their consular representatives


The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter

in some cases

Article 42-bis of penitentiary law protects the right to an interpreter in cases of transfer or disciplinary action. However, the prison staff only have a few interpreters and private market interpreters are often limited by budget constraints.

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


Foreigners must meet certain criteria to qualify for legal aid. Their annual income must not exceed €1,493.82. For non-EU citizens, a consulate must verify that their worldwide income is low enough. The consular certificate must be submitted within 20 days of the request being filed. 1.

An undocumented resident cannot be sentenced to prison. However, they can be placed under administrative detention.

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

under certain circumstances

People in ordinary situations, where deportation was not stipulated at their sentencing, may remain in the country upon their release.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


Foreign prisoners may call their home countries, so long as they communicate the recipient’s number to the prison administration.

The amount of time allotted for a visit can be extended if the visitor came from abroad. These decisions are made by the penitentiary administration.

[See the Visit Rubric]

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of

five years

Cumulative sentences have a limit


There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners


Those sentenced to five years or more serve their time in one of 46 prisons (case di reclusione).

Prisoners sentenced to long sentences generally have an easier time getting work authorisation.
Article 14-bis of penitentiary regulation authorises special surveillance of certain offenders in light of their personality or personal history. They are then kept away from other prisoners and certain activities.

Life sentences are banned


Article 22 of penal code defines the terms of a life sentence (ergastolo).

People serving a life sentence

3 % (1,802)

Variation in the number of people serving a life sentence

increase of 13.8%

Increase observed between 2014 and 2019. As of 31 December 2014, there are 1,584 prisoners serving life sentences.

Life sentences are generally reserved for cases involving homicide or terrorism. But mafia-linked offenders are also sentenced to life with some regularity.
The majority of prisoners serving life are in Lombardy, in Sardinia and in Abruzzo. People involved in the mafia are incarcerated far from their homes.

There are specific prison facilities for life-sentenced prisoners


Prisoners serving life sentences are placed in dedicated blocs within prisons (case di reclusione).

People sentenced to life can be subject to a stricter prison regime, according to the provisions of article 72 of criminal code. A person sentenced to life serves at least the first years of their sentence in isolation under the provisions of this article.

Prisoners sentenced to life are eligible for parole after having served over 26 years and if they are deemed not to pose a threat to themselves or others (article 176 of criminal code.

Those who are deemed dangerous and mafia members who refuse to collaborate with the justice department, classified as 41-bis, are not eligible for parole. This designation is called the “ergastolo ostativo.”

Percentage of untried prisoners

31 % (18,824)

Variation in the number of untried prisoners

increase of 1.9%

Increase observed between 2014 and 2019. There are 18,475 untried prisoners as of 31 December 2014.

Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


Prison administration is tasked with placing untried prisoners in dedicated blocs within detention facilities. In practice, untried detainees and convicted inmates often are not separated.

The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


Pre-trial detention and its maximum duration are defined by articles 285 and 303 penal procedure code. It is prohibited by law for criminal infractions to be punishable by less than five years imprisonment, with the exception of certain white collar crimes. Pre-trial detention cannot exceed two years for offences punishable by six years imprisonment, four years for crimes punishable by up to 20 years, and six years for crimes with sentences longer than 20 years.1

The law allows prisoners to appeal against pre-trial detention. The defendant can appeal the decision at any time.

People placed in pre-trial detention don’t have access to work opportunities. Their phone communications and visitations are also submitted to the judicial authorities.

Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed


Prison administration does not keep a record of socio-ethnic classifications. Since 2016, information on religious affiliation is not collected either.
Italian nationals of Sinti, Romani and other nomadic backgrounds are in numerous facilities. Many foreign prisoners and detainees are of Balkan or North African descent and are present, and thus could also be members of socio-ethnic (Romani) or religious (Muslim and Orthodox Christian) minorities.

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

in certain cases

Cell assignments are sometimes made on socio-ethnic or religious bases, at the discretion of staff.

The specific needs of prisoners are taken into account with regard to

language, religion and dietary restrictions

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

LGBT persons are generally placed in isolation or in blocs dedicated to targets of prison violence (rapists, child murderers, former law enforcement officers…)

Prison administration encourages transgender people to keep their gender identity quiet. Isolation is the only protection offered to them.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their ID gender

Transgender prisoners are entitled to customised searches


Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


No specific provision exists for medical care of transgender people in prison. They can, however, continue to receive hormonal treatments that were started before their incarceration.

Conjugal visits are allowed for LGBTQI+ prisoners


the law does not mention conjugal visits

The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners


The administration compiles half-yearly statistics of the prison population by age group.

Number and percentage of elderly prisoners

8.6 % (5,216)

Including 986 people over 70 years old. The number of elderly people incarcerated has increased by 47.34% in five years.


Healthcare professionals in prisons are rarely equipped to respond to geriatric medical needs. Prison facilities do not have premises and staff dedicated to geriatric care. Sometimes, they employ younger inmates, as is the case at Bollate prison in Milan 1.

  1. Maurizio Torchio, “Nelle carcere di Bollate, tra i detenuti più anziani”, Minima & Moralia, 7 June 2017. 

Prisoners over 70 years of age may request a sentence commutation due to their age (Article 47-ter of penitentiary regulation). Unrepentant mafia members cannot seek such a commutation.

Many elderly people dread being released from prison. Most of them have lost familial support and do not have homes. The care they received in prison is generally not followed up on release.1.

  1. Claudia Osmetti, “I carcerati anziani che non vogliono uscire di prigione”, Ristretti Orizzonti, 18 January 2020. 

The prison service keeps a record of prisoners with disabilities

  • As of 2015, the number of prisoners with physical or motor impairments was 628. Less than half of them are placed in accessible cells.

Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities

some facilities

Two facilities, the casa circondariale in Bari and the casa di reclusione in Parma, are specifically designed for handicapped prisoners; they have the necessary equipment and staff.

  • The Antigone Association outlined “An absolute inability of Italian prisons to accommodate disabled people”. It found that only 30% of prisons visited in 2017 have handicap accessible spaces. The number of accessible cells is insufficient and disabled people must rely on the kindness of fellow prisoners or staff.

    / Antigone

Prison administrations provide disability training for prison police officers. Good Samaritan fellow prisoners, called piantoni, usually help prisoners with disabilities on a daily basis.

Death penalty is abolished

yes, since 1994

The death penalty was abolished in 1889, before being reinstated in 1926 by the fascist regime. It was abolished again in 1947 in peacetime common law. In 1994, it was abolished from wartime marital law. Mention of the death penalty disappeared from the Constitution in 2007..