The System of Prison Administration in Italy

By Elisa D'Alterio

The prison administration (prison service) system is very ancient and complex. It comprises hundreds of facilities (considering central offices and peripheral joints), is regulated by more than five hundred normative measures, has over forty thousand operators – including those outside the administration system proper – that perform particularly heterogeneous activities (of social, health, cultural, managerial, etc. nature) and is addressed to over sixty thousand recipients (i.e. prisoners). The system also presents several peculiarities, consisting above all to very strong powers and prerogatives enjoyed by the administration; these powers are not, however, adequately offset by the guarantees and safeguards provided and implemented to protect prisoners. The ineffectiveness of the protection afforded to fundamental rights and of the mechanisms holding the administration in check makes such an imbalance particularly pronounced. In this context, within which the exercise of powers and administrative discretion should receive special attention, the need for a systematic and effective intervention on part of national institutions has become particularly urgent.