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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas