Prison suicides spur urgent calls for reform

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Forty-nine people committed suicide in Italian prisons in 2013. Photo: portengaround/Flickr
17:31 CET+01:00
Two prisoners have committed suicide in Italy since the start of the year, prompting calls to speed up prison reform and ease overcrowding.

On Sunday night a prisoner at Rome’s Rebibbia jail hung himself in his cell, two days after a man in Italy’s north-west Ivrea prison committed suicide.

The 52-year-old Rome prisoner was serving a sentence for murdering his mother and had been put under psychiatric observation after being jailed, Roma Today reported.

His death has prompted renewed calls to tackle the problem of overcrowding in prisons, a year after the European Court of Human Rights demanded Italy take action over the matter.

“The problem is that, often, overcrowding doesn’t allow us to know if these people [with psychological problems] are in such pain that they are led to take their own lives,” Angiolo Marroni, from the regional prisoners' rights organization (Garante dei Diritti dei Detenuti del Lazio), was quoted as saying.

“We need to immediately pass from words to actions, to return to a detention system that, in the full spirit of the constitution, puts a person and all of their rights at the centre,” Marroni added.

A similar cry was echoed from the union for prison guards (Osapp), following the suicide on Friday of a 42-year-old Italian man at Ivrea prison.

“Prison conditions in Ivrea are getting worse by the day, creating a true and really explosive situation that could go up at any moment,” Leo Beneducci, Osapp secretary, was quoted in Torino Today as saying.

The Italian government is currently in the process of implementing reforms aimed at easing prison overcrowding.

Under new legislation, people accused of crimes which carry a prison sentence of five years or less, with the exception of those accused of illegally financing political parties, will not have to await trial in prison.

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READ MORE: Italian jails overhauled with new law

According to the prison information website, there were 49 prison suicides last year; down from 60 in 2012. 

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