Thursday, January 14, 2010

With Not Many Prisons And Forecast Overcrowding Italy Decides To Build A Few More

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above: Viterbo Prison where Guede is in the sex offenders’ wing]

Looks like bad news for the three convicted of murdering Meredith.

Their chances of early release if they fail to win release on appeal may now become much less. First the context, from Commissario Montalbano

Given these facts, coupled with the chronic lack of prison space, it shouldn’t be a surprise that in spite of the Cosa Nostra, the Camorra and N’drangheta (as the mafia is called in the various regions), Italy has maybe the absolute lowest prison population in the world in relationship to the total population.

Italy in fact has 66 inmates for every 100,000 population, a figure matched only by Denmark, a country certainly not famous for their organized crime. By comparison, the US boasts a prison population of more than 750 inmates for every 100,000, over 1 million inhabitants, a figure 12 times the one in Italy.

Now ANSA is reporting a declaration of a state of emergency in the prison system, and the round-the-clock building of new cells to contain about 37,000 new beds.

Alfano announced that first on the agenda was the construction of 47 new jail annexes to boost the system’s capacity by 21,749 units.

The new cell blocks would cost a total 600 million euros and follow the rebuilding strategy implemented in the earthquake-struck city of L’Aquila, with construction crews working in round-the-clock shifts.

“This is the same scheme that has allowed us to put a roof over the head of everyone who lost their home” in the April 2009 quake, Alfano said.

In addition, between 2011 and 2012 the government would launch a second campaign to build brand-new prisons to accommodate a total of 80,000 inmates, almost twice its current capacity.

To depressurize jails in the meantime, the justice minister promised new legislation allowing home detention for inmates with less than one year to serve on their sentence and probation with community service for anyone sentenced to less than three.

Finally, he promised to hire some 2,000 new guards needed to oversee Italy’s swelling prison population, which hit a post-war high last year of over 65,000 detainees.

Italy’s aging jails, most of which built in the 19th century, were designed to accommodate just 43,000 prisoners.

Experts have blamed the overcrowding for a record 71 prison suicides in 2009 and another four in the first week of January.

Below,  Viterbo Prison again. All prisoners in Italy are required to learn a useful trade. No info yet on what the three convicted of Meredith’s murder are learning, though there seems plenty of lead-time.

We presume that sooner or later, for their own protection like Guede already, Sollecito and Knox will end up in sex offenders’ wings.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/14/10 at 09:09 PM in Defendants in courtAmanda KnoxRaff SollecitoThe wider contexts


Pete, I must correct the figures in my previous post, and therefore your post above. I put too many zeroes in it.

The actual prison population figures are:

For Italy: 66 every 100,000 pop
for USA: 750 every 100,000 pop

The above figures every one million would be a very low total prison population.

Sorry about that.

Posted by Commissario Montalbano on 01/15/10 at 12:01 AM | #

Thank Commisario. I have corrected that in the post, I hope correctly. Actually it is the 12X ratio that I always notice.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/15/10 at 12:41 AM | #

Italy has 65,000 in prison and the United States now has 2.2 million. The US population is about 5 times the Italian population. If the US prison population was in the same ratio only about 325,000 perps would be locked up. Not 2.2 million. In Italy careful justice is at work.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/15/10 at 01:18 AM | #

Several years ago I wrote a romance novelette. It was set in Rome, and the heroine took a short trip to Viterbo. I had decided to use Viterbo by simply glancing at a map of Italy to find a town near Rome. In Viterbo my main character encountered a sudden lightning storm. Heavy rain made her tumble down a rocky hill where she had been gazing at sheep.

Posted by Hopeful on 01/15/10 at 04:45 PM | #

Even more dramatic the comparison of the NUMBER OF INMATES SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE:

USA: 140,610
ITALY: approximately 1,500

Posted by Commissario Montalbano on 01/15/10 at 09:38 PM | #

Interesting comparison. Thank you for this informative article.

Posted by Nell on 01/20/10 at 09:25 AM | #
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