Decree to ease prison overcrowding approved

Critics say law will free too many criminals

Decree to ease prison overcrowding approved

Rome, August 8 - A government decree designed to ease chronic overcrowding in Italy's prisons won final approval in the Senate Thursday. The so-called "empty jails" decree passed in the Upper House with 195 votes in favour, 57 against. Some critics have said the legislation, which was approved by the Lower House last week, will free dangerous prisoners. However, proponents say that won't be the case. The measure, drafted by Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, says detainees convicted of minor crimes may serve their term by doing social work outside prison. The objective is to cut the number of inmates by 6,000 people in the next two years, Cancellieri has said. Italian jails hold 20,000 detainees more than capacity, Cancellieri has said, adding that matters are even worse than they appear on paper because numerous jail facilities are currently closed for renovation. Italy has been given a year by the European Court of Human Rights to correct the "degrading and inhumane conditions" in its prisons and to pay 100,000 euros in damages to seven inmates who were detained in less than three square meters of space.

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