Inmates have protested against a ban on normal family meetings as Covid-19 brings parts of northern Italy to a standstill.
A spokesperson for the Italian Ministry of Justice told The Independent that rioting prisoners in Modena “raided the pharmacy” and consumed drugs, including methadone.
It is thought that two inmates died inside the prison from drugs, while another suffocated to death after protesters started fires, according to the spokesperson.
They said three more inmates died after being moved from the prison, with autopsy reports to come for all.
Multiple others were hospitalised after the Modena prison riot, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
It was initially unclear how these prisoners from the nothern Italian jail died, with Donato Capece from Sappe, a union for penitentiary police, saying all six had died from a methadone overdose.
Riots erupted after anti-coronavirus measures suspended normal family visits in prisons.
In some cases, relatives gathered outside prisons to show their anger against the policy, passed by an emergency decree on Sunday.
Until 22 March, prisoners will only be allowed to contact their visitors by phone or other remote methods.
OSAPP, another union for penitentiary police, said there had been “chaos” in Italian prisons, with at least thirty riots taking place in jails across the country after the restrictions were announced.
The head of Italy’s prison administration, Francesco Basentini, said three inmates died at the jail in Modena, and three others died after being moved elsewhere.
He told local radio that there had been a “wave” of protests in prisons across the country.
Some inmates have managed to escape during a riot in Foggia, according to local media.
Sappe, the union, said two guards had been taken hostage in the northern city of Pavia and were released after a police raid.
Riots have taken place in Naples, Vercelli in Peidmont and Frosinone in Lazio, according to OSAPP.
On Monday, inmates climbed onto the roof of the San Vittore prison in Milan and held up a painted sheet reading “Indulto”, Italian for pardon.
The measures are aimed at tackling the spread of Covid-19, which has infected over 5,800 people in Italy to date.
Over 16m people have been placed in quarantine as the northern region of Lombardy – which includes Milan – was put on lockdown.
Over 360 people infected with Covid-19 – a flu-lke virus that can develop into pneumonia – have died in Italy to date.
Additional reporting by agencies
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