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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker