Mass pardon for convicts in Italy leads to a crime wave

As a way of easing pressure on Italy's overcrowded jails, the mass pardon that began to come into effect last week has the advantage of simplicity. But as a stream of released prisoners began heading straight back into the cells - one for attempting to strangle his former wife, others for attempted robbery - Italians began asking themselves if Romano Prodi's government had fully thought the measure through.

In addition to being simple, it is traditional: the last such jail-emptying exercise was in 1990. This time again, prisoners serving terms of three years or less are being released, with the exception of convicts guilty of Mafia crimes, terrorism, sexual violence or (a little oddly) usury. With 62,000 prisoners crammed in jails overcrowded by nearly 50 per cent, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella hopes to see the back of 12,000 of the state's involuntary guests.

Britain, with a similar problem, may wish Mr Mastella well. But to the undisguised glee of Silvio Berlusconi's opposition, things began to go wrong at once, with a prisoner in his 50s, from the city of Udine, going straight from jail to the home of his ex-wife and attempting to murder her. Others were speedily rearrested, one in the act of smashing the window of a pizzeria in Genoa, others for stealing cars in Trieste and Brescia, and, in a smart city-centre store in Bologna, an ex-inmate shoplifter was caught with three pairs of jeans. Voices on both right and left attacked the government for failing to put in place mechanisms to help prisoners readjust to life outside.

Antonio Mazzocchi, an MP with the right-wing National Alliance, suggested the first 700 prisoners rearrested should be put under house arrest, in the homes of the MPs who had voted in favour of the measure.

Prisoner advocate organisations protested that facilities to help released prisoners risked being overwhelmed. "It's like opening a dam," said Francesco Gesualdi of Pisa's New Development Model Centre, which helps released inmates. "A smaller number would have been more manageable. The main issue is the rehabilitation of the people released from jail."

An extra headache for the government was the 5,393 foreign prisoners expected to be freed, most of whom are thought to be illegal immigrants. Under present immigration law, once out of jail, these so-called clandestini must either be issued with a notice to quit the country within five days - in practice an invitation to disappear - or be consigned to one of the notorious temporary reception centres for illegal immigrants, which are already bursting at the seams owing to the continuous influx of new arrivals by leaky boat on the island of Lampedusa.

There are also fears that potentially dangerous Islamist extremists are among those streaming out of the jails. La Stampa newspaper named 20 such prisoners it claimed pose a possible threat. On Friday, the Interior Minister, Giuliano Amato, said the authorities were "keeping a particularly close eye" on immigrant convicts released under the pardon. "We are trying to expel fewer than 10 immigrants who are suspected of links to terrorism, on the basis of the powers given to us by the most recent anti-terrorism law," he said. "Yesterday I signed the first [expulsion] decrees and today I will sign others."

So the wide-ranging pardon is proving far less simple in its consequences than in its conception. But one look at what happened last time could have told Mr Mastella to expect that. Back then, 8,451 prisoners were freed out of a total jail population of about 26,000. Within six months, the number in prison had risen to 30,000.

VIDEO
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Graphic Design, Social Media and PR or Permaculture Internships in South Africa

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Work in Cape Town, South Africa for an NGO co...

Teach music or performing arts abroad

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Schools in developing countries struggle with...

Sports coaching volunteer jobs

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?