Number of drug addicts in prison dropping, says Senator

Prisoners' group says incarceration for narcotics crimes rising

Number of drug addicts in prison dropping, says Senator

Rome, June 25 - The number of drug addicts entering Italy's penitentiaries is decreasing, contrary to what prisoners' rights groups and pro-legalization associations report, Senator Carlo Giovanardi of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party said on Tuesday. Italian prisoners' rights organization Antigone and the Forum Droghe association, which campaigns for the legalisation of 'soft' drugs, have both pointed to an increase in drug users among new inmates. "Since the introduction of the Fini-Giovanardi law, alternative measures for punishable drug-related crimes have decreased," said a joint report published by Antigone and Forum Droghe on Tuesday. The 2006 Fini-Giovanardi law passed by ex-House Speaker Gianfranco Fini together with Giovanardi tightened punishment for drug-related crimes. In 2006, 3,852 inmates were released to recovery communities or on probation, while in 2012 only 2,816 people were allowed the alternative, the report said. "Before 2006 the majority of addicts were freed on probation, but with the new law, the numbers are reversed. In 2012, 1,854 drug addicts were imprisoned compared to 962 in who were on probation," the survey said. Giovanardi said: "Antigone and Forum Droghe need to stop cheating the public by shamefully manipulating data". "Since the the Fini-Giovanardi law came into effect, the number drug users in prison has decreased, not increased," he said. In 2005, 25,541 were jailed for drug use while in 2006 the number was 24,637, in 2007 it was 24,371 and finally, in 2012, 18,225 drug users were imprisoned. There was also a drop in imprisonment for the production, trafficking and selling of drug, Giovanardi said. In 2005 there was a sharp drop of drug-related incarceration, down to 25,777 in 2005, 24,452 in 2011 and 20,465 in 2012. Alternatives to prison for drug abusers increased from 2,340 in 2011 to 2,518 in 2012, "a number that could still increase significantly if regions are able to support recovery communities," Giovanardi said.

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