Italian prisons more overcrowded than ever, a study shows

Prison population increases despite measures aimed at relief

Italian prisons more overcrowded than ever, a study shows

Rome, November 19 - Italy's prisons are still far more overcrowded than the average for European countries despite reforms passed to relieve pressure on penal populations, a study released on Monday shows. Italian prisons are filled to 142.5% capacity, compared to a European average of 99.6%, according an annual monitor by the Italian prisoners' rights organization Antigone Association. Prisons in the regions of Liguria, Puglia and Veneto, are packed to 176.8%, 176.5% and 164.1% of their capacity, respectively. Some prisons hold more than double the detainees they were designed for, like the northern Sicilian zone of Mistretta, were prisoners number 269% prison capacity. Prison overcrowding has actually worsened since a state of emergency was declared over the issue on January 13, 2010. Since the end of 2009, the prison population has passed from 64,791 to 66,685 today - an addition of 1,894 detainees. The so-called "empty jails" decree, which aimed to significantly relieve prisons over a 20-month period ending on October 31 of this year, led to the early release of 8,267 detainees to serve the last year of their prison sentence at home. The Antigone study found this was a drop in the bucket compared to the regular release of 140,000 prisoners over the same period. The study also found the number of foreign prisoners outnumbers Italians in most northern Italian prisons. In Milan and Vicenza prisons, for example, the percentage of foreign prisoners is 62% and 65%, respectively, and reaches nearly 70% of the total in the alpine territories of Trentino Alto Adige and Valle d'Aosta. In the southern regions of Basilicata, Campania and Molise, foreigners make up just over 10% of the prison population.

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