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Prison Conditions in Italy

Prison services at a country level are administered by the the Ministry of Justice, more specifically by the Department of Penitentiary Administration (D.A.P. - Dipartimento d’Amministrazione Penitenziaria), responsible for the management of the personnel and penitentiary assets, for the accomplishment of tasks concerned with the execution of the penal precautionary measure and for overseeing the treatment of detainees. D.A.P. is divided in two main directorates: the first one concerned with services provision to inmates, and a second panel dedicated to mainly to the training of prison staff training (penitentiary police primarily). With the decree of the 1st April 2008 of the Council of Ministers, penal health became a competence of the Health Regional Services (A.S.L.), thus enclosing the responsibility for the medical assets, resources and health staff. Seven years since then, due to the lack of an organic plan of resources allocation and lack of a concrete health interventions by the Administration and programming of the A.S.L., the quality of the healthcare in Italian prisons is getting worse: health services provision remain very limited in quantity and quality, along with this, the availability of data related to health in prison is insufficient.

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Overcrowding is an enormous concern in italian jails: statistic of may 2017 demonstrates that in 190 penitentiary institutes 56.863 detainees are incarcerated out of 50.069 certified normal accommodation number (data from the MoJ). Italy already received two sentences from the European Court for human rights, one in 2009 (Sulejmanovič case) and one in 2013 (Torreggiani case) due to this matter. In the last years progresses have been made to comply with human rights and dignity (law 199/2010 enforced within May 2017), e.g. allowing prisoners to spend their last year and half of penalty at home or increasing the number of accommodation in the institutions, still, overcrowding is not completely solved.

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Due to what just mentioned, people entering the prison environment have a major risk of contracting serious infections diseases such as HIV (310 cases out of 15.751 screening - results of 2014), HAV (27 cases out of 15.751 screenings), HBV (321 cases out of 15.751 screenings) or HCV (1.165 cases out of 15.751 screenings), but also other pathologies could be more easily spread such as sexual transmission, such as syphilis (71 cases out of 15.751 screenings) and airborne infections such as tuberculosis (104 cases out of 15.751 screenings). Among the factors that mainly contribute to the transmission of these infectious diseases other than the overcrowding, there are: delays in diagnosis, limited access to water, soap or clean laundry and lack of implementation of preventive measures, such as condoms, or sterile syringes.

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Another significant trend noticed in Italian prisons are the so called "critical events”, this includes violence by agents on inmates, among prisoners themselves, acts of self-harm and suicide. The latter is committed by those inside the cells, but by penitentiary police officers as well. In 2016, out of a total of 115 registered deaths in prison, there are 39 suicides, 38 men, 1 woman, 27 italians and 12 foreigners (data of D.A.P.). Different methods are used: suicide by hanging, the most common, gas asphyxiation, bleeding and firearms. In may 2017 out of 44 deaths, 21 are already suiciderelated. There is no collection of data concerning the number of penitentiary police officers committing suicide in relation to their job.