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Press release

Prisoners in the Italian Penal Institutions

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There are about 10.000.000 prisoners in the world, most of whom are finally sentenced. The Prison population rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 112.6 In Italy, 127.7, in Europe, 156 in the World.

As of 31st December 2011 there were 66,897 prisoners in the Italian Penal Institutions, showing a decrease by 1.6% compared with 2010.

The number of prisoners is much higher than the capacity of Penal Institutions, that is 45,700 places. In the last 11 years the amount of prison population increased by 25.8%.

In 2011, most of the entries into prisons (76,982) were due to pretrial detention, while only 10% concerned persons having a final sentence to serve.

25% of persons entered into prisons are released within a week. This is the so called “sliding doors” phenomenon (short detentions) that concerns almost exclusivley pre-trial detainees (98%).

27,459 prisoners committed crimes against the law on drugs possession/trafficking/ selling, 17,285 committed robberies and 13,109 thefts.

95.8% of prisoners are men, the data are stable over the time.

The percentage of foreign prisoners had increased to 36% in 2011, starting from 29% of 2000.

Foreign prisoners represent 43% of entries.

Overcrowded prisons are a problem. There are 146 prisoners for 100 places. The worst situation is in Puglia (182 prisoners for 100 places), the best one is in Trentino Alto Adige (72). There are less problems for female prisoners.

In prisons there are special wings for mothers having with them children up to 3 years of age. As of 31st December 2011, in prisons there were 50 mothers with their children and 13 pregnant women.

Protests are part of prison life. Hunger strike is the most widespread, 6,628 cases in 2011, followed by food refusal (1,179 cases) and vandalism acts against objects (529 cases). In 2011, the protests decreased by 16,8% in comparison with 2010, above all the abstention from working activities and the vandalism acts.

In 2011, 63 suicides (the rate is 0,9 per 1.000 prisoners) and 1.003 suicide attempts were committed, while the self-harm acts were 5,639.

51% of the finally sentenced prisoners have a lenght of sentence of 5 years or less.

45.6% of prisoners had no previous imprisonments, 41,8% had from 1 to 4 imprisonments and the remaining 12.6% more than 5.

62.7% of prisoners were born in Italy, 32% of whom was born in the South, mainly in Campania.

Foreign prisoners are mostly African citizens (50.4%), in particular from Morocco and Tunisia, and European citizens (38.4%).

58.3% are younger than 40. 17% is older than 50 and about 5% is older than 60.

The prisoners are unmarried in 47.4% of the cases, 34% are married and 10.1% lived together with their partners.

In the 2010-2011school year, 946 educational courses were carried out: attended by 21,8% of prisoners; four prisoners out of 10 successfully passed the educational course. 291 courses were carried out for the introduction to work.

Only few prisoners have the opportunity to work: 20.9%. 40 years ago, one prisoner out of two worked, but the workforce cost was lower. There are relevant differences between regions : in Veneto, about one working prisoner out of two, work for an employer other than the Penitentiary Administration.

Contact person:
Socio-demographic and Environmental Statistics Directorate

ISTAT – Italian National Institute of Statistics
Viale Liegi,13 – 00198 Rome, Italy
Maria Giuseppina Muratore
phl. +39 06 4673.7453

Reference period: Year 2011

Date of Issue: 18 December 2012