The announcement, made in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, comes in response to mounting pressure from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to address the problem of prison overcrowding by May 2014.
According to the paper, President Giorgio Napolitano had been urging the government to take action over the last few days.
Currently in Italy, there are only 47,000 prison places for a total of 66,000 detainees.
According to European law, each prisoner must have at least three square metres in his or her cell. Any space smaller than this is considered torture.
When asked how she intended to proceed, Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who was Interior Minister in Monti’s former technocrat government, told the paper: “On Friday or at the latest Saturday the government will make a decree to increase releases from prison and limit the number of admissions. In this way we will decrease the load in prisons down to between 3,500 and 4,000 presences.”
"By May next year we should have resolved the problem," the minister said.
In addition, she added, a total of 10,000 prison places will be created in new prisons.
“But overcrowding is not the only problem,” said Cancellieri. “We must point to a different type of detention. A prisoner shouldn’t have to rot in his cell all day long.”
With just 800 prisoners out of a total of 66,000 working during their time in prison, Cancellieri suggested this number should be increased.