Prisoner sets fire to himself in Florence jail

Latest in numerous episodes of self-harm in Italian prisons

Prisoner sets fire to himself in Florence jail

Florence, November 23 - A detainee in Florence's Socciciano prison set fire to himself on Thursday evening using a small cooking stove. The unnamed man, in his 30s, was transferred to the major burns centre in nearby Pisa where his condition is said to be serious. However it is not thought that his life is in danger. The incident is the latest in a litany of self-harm episodes, suicides and deaths in the country's jails and it came as prison directors gathered in Rome for the 17th Council of Europe Conference of Directors of Prison Administration. On Thursday Pope Benedict XVI called for more humane conditions in Italian prisons. President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano also drew attention to the problem of massive overcrowding, calling for "differentiated and flexible" legislative and organisational solutions to prevent punishment "from going beyond the point where its infliction is in contrast with a sense of humanity and its function of reintegrating detainees into society". On Monday the Italian prisoners' rights organization Antigone published a report showing that Italy's prisons are still far more crowded than the European average and that the situation has actually worsened since a state of emergency was declared over the issue nearly three years ago. Italian prisons are currently filled to 142.5% capacity, compared to a European average of 99.6%, with a population of 66,685 today compared to 64,791 at the end of 2009. Overcrowding is particularly bad in the regions of Liguria, Puglia and Veneto.

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