di Marcello Mento
Rome, January 25 - Justice Minister Paola Severino expressed her ''deep bitterness and discomfort over the ongoing dramatic nature of the situation in Italian prisons'' at the official opening of the judicial year on Friday. ''It is unacceptable that at the start of this month, 24,124 detainees out of 65,789, or around 36% of the entire prison population, should be awaiting justice,'' Severino said. Of these, over half have not even received a sentence by a first-degree court, she added. ''More can and must be done both on the level of day-to-day administration and through legislation,'' Severino insisted, adding that the prison population has however fallen from 68,047 when the technocrat government led by Mario Monti took office in November 2011. ''A balanced and lasting solution to this truly complex emergency can only be found through a synergy between substantial decriminalisation, a new and more flexible regulation of alternative punitive measures and a new management of prison structures,'' said the Justice Minister, concluding that a prison sentence should only be considered as last resort.