Security, order, and discipline

Security functions are fulfilled by

the prison service

Some prison facilities, units or cells implement high-security measures


Prisoners placed under the 41-bis regime are in isolation and under continuous surveillance.
A special supervisory regime can also be established at the request of the facility head or a judicial authority. This deprives prisoners of work or participation in recreational activities, written correspondence and telephone calls and possession of certain objects that would otherwise be permitted. The health and care needs of the detainee cannot be restricted.

Prisoners are classified according to their supposed level of dangerousness


The classification of detainees is based primarily on the nature of the offence committed. The extremity and influence of their world view is also taken into account.

The classification of prisoners is revised


Following a conviction by the ECHR in 2013, the Ministry of Justice put in place, (Torregiani v. Italy case), the concept of dynamic security in several establishments. The majority of cells are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and detainees can move freely around the detention area without needing to be accompanied by a guard.

Article 34 of the prison regulations authorises pat-downs, nude and cavity searches for security purposes. The rules only impose “respect for the person” searched. Searches are generally carried out before and after activities and trips or when an offence is suspected.

Body cavity searches are conducted by a physician


The examination of body cavities is carried out by prison supervisors.

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

electronic devices

Relatives must show identity paper and go through a metal detector. They leave their phone at the entrance of the establishment. There may be a pat-down.

Professionals who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

no searches are conducted

Professionals entering the detention centre must leave their mobile phone at the entrance of the facility.

Means of restraint can be used to prevent or put an end to violence (article 41 of prison regulation). Passive resistance (i.e.: refusing to move) of a detained person may also motivate their use. Prisoners may be handcuffed during their transfers and movements outside the establishment. Means of restraint are, in fact, rarely used in detention.

The warden or equivalent is informed of any resort to restraint.

Security staff carry

no weapons

Prison guards are unarmed. The head of a facility may authorise the use of weapons to respond to a critical situation.

A special intervention unit is in charge of restoring order


The Gruppo operativo mobile of the prison police, created in 1997, is responsible for the surveillance of persons detained under 41-bis and the protection of those cooperating with investigations. It can be deployed to restore order in critical situations and is made up of twelve regional divisions.

Those imprisoned for crimes based on Islamic terrorism are classified as High Security 2 (AS2) and are closely regulated by the Nucleo investigativo centrale (NIC), the intelligence unit for the prison service. AS2 prisoners are most often subject to solitary confinement. The NIC also monitors prisoners suspected of radicalisation.1

  1. Antigone, Fifteenth Report on Prison Conditions, 2019 (in Italian). 

  • As of 18 October 2018, there were 66 persons imprisoned for crimes based on Islamic terrorism. Only 6% of them had been definitively convicted. As of the same date, there were 356 prisoners suspected of radicalisation and under surveillance by the NIC.

    Antigone, Fifteenth Report on Prison Conditions

The prison service keeps record of incidents


Prison administrations record and publish statistics on “critical events” , on an irregular basis. The last available data dates back to 2018.

Number of escapes


The prison administration recorded 131 escapes in 2018, including four from closed establishments. [^ Note]

[^ note]: Aebi, MF, & Tiago, MM, “SPACE I - 2019 - Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics: Prison populations” (Annual penal statistics of the Council of Europe - Report 2019), p. 112 (in English).

  • About 20 prisoners escape, March 9, 2020, from Foggia prison in the region of Apulia.

    / la Republicca

Number of hostage takings

Data not disclosed

Number of violent acts against prison staff



The number of physical attacks against staff increased by 76% between 2014 and 2018. [^ Note]

[^ note]: CPT, Report to the Italian government on the visit from 12 to 22 March 2019, p. 11 (in English).

Individual acts of protest are recorded


  • In 2018, the prison administration recorded 11,178 individual acts of protest.

    / Ristretti

Collective movements are recorded


  • In 2018, the prison administration recorded 1,082 collective acts of protest.

    / Ristretti

Breaches of discipline are clearly defined in writing


Disciplinary offences are listed in articles 39 and 40 of the prison regulations, (prison law of July 26 1975) and by Articles 77 to 81 of Presidential Decree No. 230 of June 30, 2000.

Disciplinary offences are investigated

yes, by the director of the facility

Prison police officers are responsible for producing a report detailing every offence. This report is then sent to the management of the facility and to the supervisory magistrate.

The decision to apply a disciplinary sanction must be subject to an adversarial debate


Prisoners are allowed to be assisted by a lawyer


Detainees are not always assisted by a lawyer during disciplinary hearings. In 2019, The CPT recommended compliance with this rule and the opportunity for the detained person to call witnesses. [^ Note]

[^ note]: CPT, Report to the Italian government on the visit from 12 to 22 March 2019, p. 51 (in English).

The disciplinary council is headed by the director of the prison and consists of a supervisor, a socio-educational professional and a doctor.

Prisoners may appeal against disciplinary sanctions


Prisoners are not always informed of possibilities and methods to appeal a disciplinary sanction.

The pronouncement of a disciplinary sanction, with the exception of the call to order and the warning, cancels the remissions of a sentence of 45 days granted every six months to the detained persons.

Solitary confinement can be used as

  • punishment
  • protection
  • security measure

and those sentenced to life imprisonment are placed in solitary confinement during the first years of their sentence (isolamento diurno, article 72 of the penal code).
Article 33 of the prison regulations authorises the solitary confinement of certain persons in pre-trial detention during the period of detention. investigation or for health reasons.
The head of the establishment may request the isolation of a person under special supervision under Article 14-bis. A detained person can also request to be placed in solitary confinement when they are concerned for their safety. The decision is then made by the head of the prison.

Solitary confinement is decided

  • at a magistrate’s order
  • by the prison governor
  • by the disciplinary council

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited

varies, is a function of the type of isolation

Isolation for disciplinary purposes is limited to 10 days. Detained persons subject to special supervision may be placed in solitary confinement for a period of several months.

Solitary confinement can be extended


The solitary confinement measure is subject to regular review


The time period before a person in solitary confinement is examined is set when the decision to isolate them is made. The CPT notes that some prisoners whose monthly exams show good behaviour remain in solitary confinement. [^ Note]

[^ note]: CPT, Report to the Italian government on the visit from 12 to 22 March 2019, p. 31 (in English).

Prisoners in solitary confinement receive regular medical care


A doctor is required to visit prisoners in solitary confinement on a daily basis.

People placed in solitary confinement are usually in standard single cells. Sometimes they are placed in a cell without furniture (cella liscia).
Most prisons have an isolation ward with several cells. The so-called 41-bis prisoners are isolated in dedicated quarters.

Prisoners in solitary confinement have a one-hour daily outing to a private outdoor courtyard.

Detainees placed in disciplinary isolation cannot take part in activities.
Prisoners under 41-bis are prohibited from participating in activities offered to others. They sometimes have specific activities.

Family ties are maintained during placement in solitary confinement. 41-bis prisoners are subject to special restrictions.

See the Visits section.