Updated on: 19 November 2020
Prisoners present (as of 26 October 2020): 54,774
Staff (data as of last 30 June 2020): 40,542, including: 36,317 Penitentiary Police staff and 4,225 civilian staff (governors, administrative clerks, technicians, accountants, educators, etc.)
Until 30 June 2020, the sentence to imprisonment is to be executed, upon request, at the sentenced person’s home or in other public or private healthcare center, where the sentence to be served is under 18 months, even if it is the remaining part of a longer sentence.
Following offenders are excluded from that measure: persons sentenced for crimes of criminal mafia association, national and international terrorism, kidnapping for ransom, international drug trafficking; persons sentenced for crimes of domestic violence and harassments; habitual offenders; the inmates who participated in the recent riots in prisons.
All offenders on home detention, except all minor offenders and those adult offenders who have to serve a sentence up to six months, shall undergo electronic surveillance
The measure above was confirmed by a new Law by deccree dated 28 October 2020 and extended until 31 December 2020
The Italian law provides for the possibility for inmates to receive parcels from outside the prison. Specific instructions are issued upon the COVID-19 emergency with regard to checking the parcels and disinfection measures. For further details see update of 27 March.
The staff receiving and/or checking parcels shall wear personal protective equipment such as disposable mask and gloves and shall wash their hands after handling the parcel. During the parcel check, the worker shall avoid touching his/her mouth, nose or eyes with his/her hands. They shall disinfect surfaces with adequate disinfectants. As for the items contained in the parcel, families are recommended to send new, sealed clothes. Upon reception, the content of the parcel will be split into smaller bags and handed over to the prisoner, in order to avoid the introduction into the prison of any packaging.
Where an inmate, already in the prison, shows symptoms compatible with SARS-CoV 2, he will be transferred to a dedicated room, previously identified by the prison governor. Here the medical doctor shall visit him. The co-inmates sharing the cell with the sick prisoner or those ones who had contacts with him shall undergo the medical screening and tests, as ordered by the medical doctor.
Pharyngeal swab sample taking: this procedure shall be carried out by the Local Healthcare Agency medical or nursing staff, who will access the prison and go in the cell of the inmate to take the sample.
Positive outcome of the swab test: the healthcare staff, coordinated by the chief medical doctor of the prison, shall assess, based on clinical conditions of the prisoner, whether he should stay in a healthcare confinement in dedicated premises inside the prison or he should be hospitalized.
Negative outcome of the swab test: the inmate shall stay in a healthcare confinement until the date set by the healthcare authorities.
Where a prisoner who is to be transferred to another prison needs to undergo a swab sample test, it will be necessary to wait until the negative outcome of said test, before transferring him/her.
Direct contacts with inmates under health confinement are prohibited. Protected meetings are allowed (in premises fully partitioned with glasses and with different paths of entry) as well as remote contacts.
In each prison, the following three areas have been set up:
As for the prison population, the following groups of inmates undergo separation from each other and from the remaining part of prisoners:
During the “first wave” phase, the prisons have arranged spaces dedicated to the separation of inmates in accordance with several criteria in line with the health management plan set up and have already experimented effective procedures of checks and prevention; the staff today is aware and prepared about risks, tasks and actions to be taken. Where possible workplaces of inmates have been arranged with all necessary safety equipment and in compliance with safety measures provided for by law. The premises for family visits have been equipped with Plexiglas or glass partitions in all the establishments.
Upon their entry into the prison facility, the healthcare staff shall make a first screening (triage) of the inmate. – The staff will be wearing the personal protection equipment (DPI);
The prison physician, during the first entry medical examination, shall make all the necessary healthcare interventions;
All the newly arrived inmates are kept separated from the rest of the prison population, in the prison win especially dedicated to new arrivals. The arriving inmate undergoes one swab test upon his entry and one more swab test at the end of the period of isolation foreseen. The result of the test must be negative, in order to allow the new inmate to be assigned to an ordinary detention wing.
Since 10 November 2020, Prisoners’ transfers are limited only to unavoidable situations relevant to health reasons and to very serious and well-grounded reasons of security.
In Italy, the penal execution is regulated mainly by one Law (Penitentiary Act, Law n. 354 of 1975 and following modifications) and by its Regulations of enforcement (Decree of the President of the Republic n. 230 of 2000).
Provisions during COVID-19 pandemic:
On the occasion of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, the following provisions were issued:
The home detention measure was confirmed by a new Law by decree dated 28 October 2020 and its enforcement is extended until 31 December 2020.
The stop to family visits in all our prisons was based on the Laws by decree approved by the Government, providing strong restrictions to the movement of the national population.
Prisoners assigned to the Medium and High security level are authorized to communicate with their families through electronic mail.
High security inmates are immediately authorized to have contacts with their families making telephone calls to authorized mobile phones numbers. They are allowed to use the Skype for business to make video calls with their family members who are entitled to visits.
Video talks of inmates with defence counsels are always allowed through Skype for business.
Prisoners undergoing the Maximum Security regime will continue to receive visits; such visits are in premises separated from the visitors by a glass partition. Visitors shall be invited to wear masks. Rooms will be sanitized after the visit.
In the Italian prisons, visits from families are taking place. Last 30 June 2020, after the restrictions of the previous months, the Prison Service Headquarters issued provisions regulating the access of family members to visits in prisons, based on the considerations made by the Technical Scientific Committee, a national body in charge of providing advice to the whole Government on the issues related to the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. Today, the inmates can receive at least one visit per month, even of a longer duration than the usual (e.g. two or three hours instead of one), within the maximum limit provided for by the law according to the category which the inmates belong to. The visits shall be carried out in the full and strict compliance with the healthcare and law provisions currently in force concerning hygiene and social distancing. In many prisons, glass or Plexiglas partitions were installed in the visits halls to that purpose. Specific provisions were issued in each prison to regulate the access of visitors, in close cooperation with the Local Healthcare Service of the community. The inmates still have the right to access video-calls with their relatives through Skype or other technical similar means
So far (as of 19 November), family visits are still ongoing (one or two per months, each with only one visitor aged between 12 and 65), although prisoners are encouraged to make use of telephone calls and video-calls to maintain their contacts with their families. Moreover, the Italian territory has been subdivided by the Government into areas – that correspond to the Regions – of three different levels of risk: yellow (moderate), orange (high) and red (very high).
In the red areas, movements are extremely restricted: people cannot go out of their houses, except to go to work, to see a doctor or for reasons of necessity (to buy food, for instance). People cannot go out to see their relatives. Therefore, people cannot go and visit imprisoned relatives or friends, either. But in principle visits in prisons are not suspended as such. In yellow areas they are still ongoing, since movements are free around the whole regional area. In orange areas, people’s free movement is restricted to the municipal area of residence
The recommendations and instructions issued by the national Headquarters on the phase 3 (“the second wave”) concern a more widespread, continuous and rigorous use of face masks inside the penal establishments, a more intensive testing activity on newly arrived prisoners, a quicker contact tracing of positive cases, through a wider use of swab tests and rapid tests to detect COVID-19 infection. A careful and clear action of information towards inmates is recommended, should it be necessary to adopt restrictions on inmates’ rights, which must be proportionated to the possible risks and temporarily limited. Should it be necessary to stop the contacts of the prisoners with people coming from outside (family members, volunteers, rehabilitation actors, teachers, etc.), that interruption must be proportioned, gradual and temporary. The Head and the Deputy Head of the Department of Penitentiary Administration shall be informed without delay of the need to adopt such a measure. All the prisoners involved shall be duly and carefully informed about said decision before its implementation.
At regional level, each Directorate drafts a regional plan in close cooperation with regional healthcare authorities, which are in charge of providing healthcare services to inmates. Those regional plans provide for the identification of some prisons in each regional district able to accommodate a good number of infected inmates to be temporarily transferred in those establishment in order to concentrate healthcare and human resources to dedicate to their care.
Finally, two scenarios have been foreseen by the Headquarters for the prisons, according to the percentage of infected persons in each prison (considering both inmates and staff).
In any case (both for 1st and 2nd threshold), the implementation of the measures adopted shall be sustained and accompanied by an adequate information campaign to prisoners. The measures shall last 15 days, then an assessment of the levels of contagion shall be made, with the purpose of confirming or lessening those measures. In any case, the prison governors shall make a weekly assessment of the situation of their prison in order to survey the percentage of infections and activate the consequent measures without delay.
Continuation of the ongoing school and education courses, final exams and tests: interviews between teachers and detained students are allowed through video-conference and Skype. That is valid for prisoners assigned to the Medium and High security level.
For university courses the correspondence through electronic mail is allowed.
The procurement of more than 1,600 mobile phones and the next purchase of 1,600 more by the Penitentiary Administration allowed inmates to use mobile phones to call their families. The possibility to make telephone calls also to mobile phone numbers. The increase in the number of allowed telephone calls, beyond the limits set by the legislation currently in force, free of charge for all inmates.
The remote conversation between inmates and their relatives is made through Skype video-connection as well as through video-calls between mobile phones. The possibility to have video talks free of charge for all inmates, even belonging to High Security category.
The use of the prison laundry service without expenses for prisoners.
The possibility for inmates to receive bank transfers online.
The increase in the limits of expenses for all inmates.
Staff members shall not enter the prison if they have flu-like symptoms or fever. If flu-like symptoms arise while they are on duty, they shall wear a protection mask, leave the prison and inform their medical practitioner and the healthcare authorities.
A policy of regular screening tests for the detection of infection among staff has been put in place in close cooperation with the local healthcare services throughout the Country. Strategies are implemented for a wide contact-tracing of persons who had contacts with the staff members detected as positive to COVID-19 infection.
In order to allow administrative staff to work from home (so-called smart working), more than two thousand pc netbook were procured to be handed over to clerks.
Personal protective equipment is regularly provided to staff and to inmates.
The production of face masks started in some prison workshops: currently, 400,000 face masks per day are produced in three prisons, mainly for internal use of the Penitentiary Administration.
Masks are to be worn by anyone present in prisons (staff, visitors, inmates). Prisoners can be exempt from wearing masks only when they are in their own room.
The previsions above have been issued by a law by decree, signed by the Prime minister; Law by Decree of 17 March 2020, n. 18. and confirmed by a Law by decree dated 28 October 2020
An increase is provided in the 2020 budget for paying extra-time hours to Penitentiary Police staff and to prison governors in penal establishments for adults and in prisons for minors, to cover other costs connected with the temporary prolonged stay far from their homes of staff working in prisons, as well as to pay for the sanitization and disinfection of all the premises and facilities, for the protection of both inmates and staff.
For any further questions regarding the procedures in the state of emergency taken by the Ministry of Justice: Department of Prison Administration of Italy please contact the following:
Andrea Beccarini (Head of Unit of International relations and European projects)
Department of Prison Administration of Italy
Department of Prison Administration of Italy
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union