Prisons, Antigone's report "Torture is forbidden": "Overcrowding, suicides, violence, a 2022 to forget"

Prisons, Antigone's report "Torture is forbidden": "Overcrowding, suicides, violence, a 2022 to forget"

ROME - There are 13 proceedings and trials for violence and torture - among those currently in progress - in which Antigone - association that deals with the protection of rights and guarantees in the Italian penal and penitentiary system - is engaged directly with its own lawyers. The data was illustrated this morning in Rome, during the presentation of "Torture is prohibited”, XIX report of Antigone on the conditions of detention. Despite the evidence that torture in prison exists and can only be prosecuted since 2017 thanks to the approval of a specific law, proposals have come from the center-right majority to abolish the crime or amend article 613-bis. Two dangerous hypotheses – explained Patrizio Gonnella, president of Antigone – because they would risk blowing up the trials currently in progress and leaving those guilty of this crime unpunished.


The state of prisons. The Antigone report, which takes stock of the state of Italian prisons every year, raises an alarm on overcrowding, a problem now endemic to the penitentiary system, also certified by the surveillance courts which, in 2022 alone, accepted 4,514 appeals from as many people inmates (or ex-inmates), who during their detention have suffered inhuman and degrading treatment, linked above all to the lack of space.

In the cells, 9,000 people too many. In 2022, from the data collected by the observatory on the conditions of detention of Antigone in the 97 prisons visited throughout the country, in 35% of the establishments there were cells in which 3 m2 was not guaranteed. walkable for each person detained. While the crowding rate, as of April 30, 2023, was 119%, with about 9,000 people too many compared to the seats actually available. In some regions the situation is even more worrying. Overcrowding, in addition to limiting living spaces, also takes away the possibility of working, studying or carrying out other activities for detainees.

Few job opportunities behind bars. Referring only to the issue of work, as at 31 December 2022 there were 19,817 prison workers, equal to 35.2% of those present. Among these are also counted those who, with rotating shifts, work a few hours a month. About two out of three inmates had no access to any form of work. The vast majority of prison workers, or 86.8%, work as employees of the Penitentiary Administration, engaged in small internal activities that are not very spendable in the working world. Only 4.6% of the prison population works for external employers.

Reduced spaces for operators and volunteers. Overcrowding also impacts on the work of the operators, who are already below the provisions foreseen in the organic plants. A huge problem is that of legal pedagogical officials. There are 803 those who work in Italian prisons, compared to the 923 envisaged in the organic plan. On average, each educator has to deal with 71 prisoners. Individual situations present much more worrying data: in the Roman prison of Regina Coeli, where 11 educators are supposedly expected, there are instead only 3, for a number of prisoners that stands at around 1,000 units. Each educator must therefore deal with more than 330 detainees.

Under staff are also psychologists and psychiatrists. From the direct survey of Antigone in 2022 it emerges that there were 9.2 serious psychiatric diagnoses for every 100 inmates (almost 10%). 20% of prisoners were taking important psychopharmacological therapies such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics or antidepressants, a double percentage of prisoners with a medically defined diagnosis. Even 40.3% took sedatives or hypnotics. Against all this, the hours of service of psychiatrists were on average 8.75 for every 100 inmates, those of psychologists 18.5 for every 100 inmates.

The suicides. Although every suicide is a personal case, which depends on many dynamics, the situations described above can only play a role in the very high number of these extreme gestures that are recorded in Italian prisons. 85 last year, already 23 in the first 5 months of 2023.

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