di Marcello Mento
Palermo, May 23 - The justice minister on Thursday said Italy's prisons were "unworthy of a civilized country". "In order to solve the problem, it's not enough to build new prisons, but instead to rethink the sentencing process, and evaluate whether there is room for alternatives," said Anna Maria Cancellieri, speaking at a commemoration ceremony for anti-Mafia magistrate Giovannin Falcone, slain 21 years ago on this day. The country's prison conditions have long been the source of criticism from human rights groups. In January the European Court of Human Rights harshly criticized authorities for holding prisoners in crammed cells. In April Italy challenged a ruling that orders it to correct the "degrading and inhumane conditions" in its prisons and to pay 100,000 euros in damages to seven inmates who had fewer than three square meters of space each. Italy's jails are the third most overcrowded in Europe behind Serbia and Greece, according to the Council of Europe, and is also third for the number of inmates awaiting trial, after Ukraine and Turkey. Since 1960, a 300% increase in prison suicides has been reported.