Article originally published in Italian on Associazione Antigone, 14 Marzo 2020 – accessible here

The tragic events of recent days have shaken the Italian prison system to its core. Almost 50 institutions have been caught up in protests which in some cases, fortunately few, have degenerated into violent demonstrations. These protests have had tragic consequences, including 14 deaths and various people held in hospital in precarious conditions. Fear, loneliness, despair, overcrowding and the risk of infection from Covid-19 for both inmates and prison staff require urgent and effective responses in order not to sever relations with the outside world.

There are 50,931 places available in Italian prisons, less now after some were made unavailable in the last few days. At the end of February there were 61,230 prisoners. Some prisons reach a crowding rate of 190%. Every day prisoners hear on television that they have to keep their distance, but then find themselves with three people in cells of 12 square meters. Hygiene and sanitary conditions are often precarious. In 2019 Antigone visited 100 institutions: in almost half of them there were cells without hot water, in more than half there were cells without showers. Cleaning and hygiene products are often lacking. With these numbers, if the virus were to enter the prison, it would be a catastrophe for prisoners and staff. For both of them, it is necessary to move immediately.

Read the full appeal and proposals by Antigone, Anpi, Arci, Cgil and Gruppo Abele (in Italian) here.