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The prison in the time of the virus: to understand the suffering of those who live in cells that are overcrowded
the ROME - Publish here the testimony is diffused by Narrow Horizons, Ornella Favero, president of the National Conference of Volunteer work Justice.


Try to imagine today, with this bombardment of news about a virus that is scary to all of us, of being locked up in a jail was overcrowded, to hear talk of the need to stay at least a metre distance from one another, and to know that your near bunk is a few inches from you, in a dangerous promiscuity dictated by the restricted space; to hear that it is a virus that can become deadly if it attacks persons enfeebled by illness, and see that the people who are around you are often weakened by a past of drug addiction and other more serious diseases that coexist with the detention; to have a life of poor relationships and see first “disappear” all the volunteers, all of a sudden no longer allowed to enter the prison, and then suddenly even the family. Making disappear the already few possibilities of training and education and have to fill the days with nothing, and fear. There is something to really lose your head.

The value of "non-violence" of Volunteering. If there is a value to which the Volunteer is a carrier, is always that of non-violence, then there is nothing that can justify what is happening in these days in prisons, but we also have the duty of trying to understand the desperation that is behind certain gestures: seven inmates died in Modena, perhaps to have ingested methadone, however, are the expression of suffering and solitude that characterize today more than ever life imprisonment. When with a quality of life that is already so low with an external catastrophe such as that of the coronavirus, to think that the people who the violence have experienced it often in their past they can act with reasonableness is only an illusion. If, as we request from time to time, the persons detained could have elected representatives, it would be at least a little easier to try to empower in such a serious situation.

The long path of re-education in worth. Learn how to refuse any and all violence is a fundamental aspect of education, on which we volunteer, we work tirelessly with people in detention, but the paths are long and complex, involving an adequate training/information and a comparison constant. And it is for this reason that we also understand how dramatically difficult it is for the prison Police to address violent conflicts, such as those of these days, and cope with this emergency, often without adequate and detailed information, and without the prescribed protective equipment. And how important it is that everything that is happening in this tragic disaster will not terminate, but rather develop and strengthen the dialogue that should be on the purposes of re-education punishment.

proposals. Here's what we volunteers, part of the civil society that accompanies the detained persons in reintegration, we offer:

1) - set up at each Institution a sort of crisis Unit involving representatives of all the operators, including the volunteer who is so comfortable in the daily routine of prison life, but that is more easily “forgivable” in times of real emergency, when its contribution, his capacity of mediation and communication would be fundamental.

2) - Give order and efficiency to the measures, relating to the protection of the affections, leaving the generality of the formulas, such as that adopted in these days, which says that “The talks visual you play in phone mode or video, even in derogation to the duration currently provided for by current regulations”. Phone calls should be unbundled as is the case in many european Countries, however, planned to allow everyone to call home every day; it should be established a fund for those who do not have money in the current account, and studied the possibility to use foreign prisoners to the pre-paid cards.

3) - then, There is a circular of the DAP, which calls for the establishment of the interviews via Skype in all institutions, it should be monitored the situation to see which prisons have already applied the circular and should be organized more locations in each school, expanding also to the prisoners of the High Security, the possibility of the interviews via Skype.

4) - it should also Be given to the Volunteer the role to support and assist the detained persons to remain in contact with their families, especially at such a delicate time.

5) - " There are prison 8682 persons held less than one year of remaining sentence, 8146 people held with from one to two years of residual sentence, then intended to get out early. Are people who do not need to clog up the prisons and make it even more difficult to cope with the emergency overcrowding and the coronavirus.

The way out: the alternative measures to prison. What you can do now is to create the conditions so that they may be granted more alternative measures: so where can the probation to social services, which is the measure more fully effective for the reintegration of persons held in the company and also for the safety of society itself, and then the detention in the last two years of the sentence. From all the old people and the sick, which should be as soon as possible sent home. And if you do not have where to go, we believe that the network of the host Community can give a hand to find them somewhere. This would reduce significantly the number of people in prison, and would contribute to the easing of tensions and to deal more effectively with the health emergency.

the Pardon, an amnesty: it is better not crreare illusions. In a Country, convulsive, irrational, and scared as our create scandal and confusion to say that a solution such as the two years of the pardon and an amnesty for the offences of not particularly serious would be a serious way to bring the prisons to the decency and relieve the courts, already weakened by the virus. However, we need to start talking about it, with the awareness that it is dangerous today to create unnecessary illusions among the detained persons and their family members. Do it in a way that is guaranteed the right to health even to those who did wrong and is serving a sentence, is the right way to feel part of a community, and deal with less fear of the future.

* Ornella Favero is the President of the National Conference on Volunteering Justice

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