Observatory on the Prison Conditions in Italy
In 1998 we received the permanent authorization from the Ministry of Justice to visit all the Italian detention centers. Since 2007 we issue an annual report (originally biannual) on the prison conditions in Italy. It is a very important document that is normally used by whoever want to know the Italian detention system: media, students, experts and political parties. In 2015 we issued our twelfth report.
We have more than 70 observers with an authorization to enter detention centers, which is similar to that of parliamentarians. Some observers can operate in all Italian detention centers and others only in the region where they are residents. They are all volunteers and are specifically trained by us to carry out these visits. After each visit they write a report which describes the detention center’s structural conditions, climate, respect of legislation and other characteristics. All the information is verified and updated after each visit.
Our observatory is and has always been free and independent. Thanks to our observers we have realized the first webdoc on Italian prisons (www.insidecarceri.com) and we are among the founders of the European Prison Observatory (www.prisonobservatory.org).
We would like to thank the Ministry of Justice, the Head of the Administration of the Penitentiary System Department, Directors of detention centers, Vice-directors, and all staff of the Administration of the Penitentiary System for cooperating with us in fulfilling our visits.
Realized thanks to the contribution of:
Otto per Mille chiesa valdese, compagnia di San Paolo
European Prison Observatory
Since 2003 we lead an European Prison Observatory, realized thanks to the European Union grants, which involves nine european countries. The idea of a European Prison Observatory comes from an old project initiated by Antigone in 2000, that led to our first cooperations with partner organizations in other European countries and to the first studies. Today the Observatory is a reality that operates through a comparative work on the penitentiary systems and and advocacy activity with the aim to influence national and sovra-national criminal and penitential policies and to strengthen human rights protection mechanisms in places of detention.
Observatory on the Prison Conditions of Minors
Our Observatory on the Prison Conditions of Minors has become in the last few years a reference point for the media, the public opinion and the institutions in order to study, reflect on and elaborate new strategies for detained minors. Since 2016 we are authorized to enter in all detention centers for minors with videocameras in order to show how reality is, instead of just describing it. We are sure that this contribution will help the comprehension and the reflection on the detention centers for minors.
“Ragazzi fuori” (Kids out) is our third report on the Italian prisons for minors. The first two reports were named “Ragazzi dentro” (Kids in) and “Non è una giustizia minore” (Not a lesser justice). At today’s times of reforms and new perspectives of the penitentiary system it is important to look at kids inserted into society and not closed behind walls.
The Observatory on the prison conditions of minors is coordinated by Susanna Marietta and wouldn’t be a reality without our volunteers observers whom we thank wholeheartedly for their amazing work.
The work of the observatory has also been made possible thanks to the financial contribution of:
Otto per Mille chiesa valdese.
Since 2008 10 lawyers and experts of criminal law offer help and free law advice to detainees of all Italian prisons. Every week our ombudsman receives about thirty legal advice requests on many different issues: unjust transfers, denied access to health care, help to obtain an alternative measure to detention, prison overcrowding, denunciation of violence on prisoners. Our ombudsman has filed to the European Court of Human Rights over 1000 cases of violation of Article 3 so far. This article of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatments. In three cases our ombudsman testified in court during cases of mistreatment of prisoners and in two sentences the court found the authors guilty.
The hours that these lawyers and experts spend in solving the cases are completely volunteer.
Our scientific journal
Since 2006 we publish a scientific journal with three numbers per year on issues linked to criminal law and to the penal system. The Director is Dr. Claudio Sarzotti, professor of sociology of law at Università di Torino. The editorial committee is composed by university professors of law, philosophy and sociology. Our scientific journal has become one of the few places of reflection on penalties and since 2013 it has opened the floor to a European debate thank to different calls for papers. Many university libraries are subscribed to our journal, which is printed in the prison of Ivrea in order to give work to detainees.
In the radio program “Jailhouse rock. Suoni, suonatori e suonati dal mondo delle prigioni” (Sounds, players and played from the prison world) stories of famous singers meet our prisons. The awesome concert that Johnny Cash performed in the prison of Folsom, Chet Baker’s trumpet that filled the prison of Lucca with amazing sounds, Tupac Shakur, who entered the prison when he wasn’t even born because of false accusations against his mother and other activists of the Black Panther, 99 Posse, who created the music for a piece written by the life-sentenced Carmelo Musumeci, Mercedes Sosa, who was imprisoned and then exiled by the Argentinian military dictatorship, all the bluesmen who kept on singing even from behind bars, Roberto Murolo, whose career was interrupted by an infamous false accusation of pedophilia, Joan Baez, imprisoned because of her political engagement.
The radio program, broadcasted once per week initially by Radio Popolare and now by Radio Articolo 1, tells stories of music and prisons, and includes “Giornale Radio dal Carcere” (Radio news from prison), the first radio news program entirely made by detainees from three prisons: Rebibbia Nuovo Complesso (Rome), Bollate (Milan) and Polo Universitario carcere di Torino (Turin). Thanks to “Jailhouse Rock” the band from Bollate was able to participate to festivals and concerts out of jail.
The conductors Patrizio Gonnella and Susanna Marietti from Associazione Antigone use music and the most famous jail-related episodes in order to tell the stories of the people who are currently detained. The aim is to bring closer to prison-related topics those people who are not experts in this field.
The program is broadcasted by Radio Articolo 1 della Cgil, Radio Città Aperta di Roma, radio Popolare di Milano, radio Popolare del Salento, radio Popolare di Verona, Contro Radio di Firenze, Radio Città del Capo di Bologna, Radio Flash di Torino, Radio Beckwith di Cuneo and Radio Ciroma di Cosenza. One of the most innovative parts of the program is the “Giornale Radio dal Carcere” (Radio news from prison); it is entirely made and managed by detainees from the three prisons of Roma Rebibbia, Milano Bollate and Polo Universitario carcere di Torino, who in their weekly edition tell the stories of their prisons. More or less ten volunteers assist the detainees of the editorial staff.
Another very important part of the project is the participation of “Freedom Sounds”, a group of detainees, who each week realize the covers of the pieces that are presented during the program. Thanks to “Jailhouse Rock”, the band became known outside the prison of Bollate and obtained several permits from the surveillance judges to perform outside prison. The former director of the prison of Rebibbia, Carmelo Cantone, intervenes in each episode as a special correspondent. Today he is the regional chief of penitentiary administration for Puglia and Basilicata.