An Italian regime: because 41 bis is Europe’s toughest prison

The case of anarchist Alfredo Cospito, sent to 41 bis, has reignited debate in Italy over the appropriateness of this extreme form of detention, which for many was comparable to torture. Almost completely isolating the person from other inmates, depriving them of socialization, in the most severe cases, watching them with cameras day and night, even in the cell, removing them from the family’s living quarters, making personal care difficult. Whose relationships with loved ones and surveillance conversations are really necessary for the safety of society? And is it humanly acceptable?

41 bis is practically unique in Europe, with only a few examples of similar regimens comparable to ours. “There are also special regimes in other countries that place significantly greater restrictions on a detainee than other detainees. These are much more stringent in countries that have had to deal with terrorism or in various Eastern European countries with stricter prisons and prisons. Criminal Law researcher at the University of Pavia and Adriano Martufi, Visiting Research Fellow at Liden University,, Netherlands, expert on prisoner rights.

In Spain, prisoners considered the most dangerous are subjected to solitary confinement in a cell and the ‘regime cerrado’, the harshest prison that usually consists of only one or up to three hours of outdoor activities with no more than three other prisoners. This regime is mainly used for militants of the Basque independence armed group ETA. Although there are no private prisons for these detainees, they are sent to facilities far from the city they come from in order to make it difficult for them to meet with family members and even other organization members. Just like with 41 bis in Italy.

The revision of the ‘regime cerrado’ decision is made by a special commission every three months and approved by the Madrid Prisons General Secretariat. The regime was criticized by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an organ of the Council of Europe, underlining that these detainees are often subjected to violence and that this measure should be specific and limited. prolonged over time, usually for very long periods of time.

Belgium is one of the states that have introduced tougher prison regimes lately. After the 2015 Paris attacks, the country introduced D-radex, a strict detention regime for prisoners considered extremist or terrorist. There are two D-radex divisions in the country, at Ittre and Hasselt, with about 20 cells each. These sections are like a prison within a prison.

Prisoners in these sections have no contact with other inmates and are subject to stricter confinement rules, restrictions on phone calls, and only outside visitation under the supervision of a guard is allowed. In groups of three, they are entitled to only one hour of fresh air a day, in custody and with virtually no access to prison activities, education and work. For example, Salah Abdeslam, one of the commandos responsible for the coordinated attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, is being held under this regime. 2,500 euros each for non-pecuniary damage due to the conditions of their detention and the absence of a real possibility of appeal.

One of the regimes most similar to the 41 bis regimes in the European Union is located in Poland. Prisoners here are considered the most dangerous as they commit particularly brutal crimes, as they are held responsible for undermining the sovereignty or integrity of the Republic, perpetrating violence against other prisoners or agents, and even becoming members, as in Italy. can be placed in the so-called N section of organized crime. The name derives from the first letter of the Polish word ‘niebezpieczny’ meaning absolutely dangerous.

These detainees are constantly monitored for their movements, both inside and outside the cell. ‘Dangerous’ prisoners may work, study, worship, do sports, engage in educational and cultural activities only in a separate section. All their movements are possible only under guard, and they are subject to strict personal controls each time they leave the cell, and some report that they are often very invasive and violent. This regime was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2012, and in the Piechowicz case he pointed to Warsaw, arguing that such a regime should not be justified on valid grounds and above all not limited by time. however it remains, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Since then, the country has adjusted its approach somewhat, but the regime is still in force and very harsh.

“Actually, this is the main problem of 41 bis in Italy, but our legislation on this issue has the ability to set up a game to evade the penalties of the ECtHR. 41 bis is initially given as a maximum of 4. In this way, while presenting itself as a transitional regime, Bernardo As Provenzano’s story shows, he actually becomes a permanent regime with life sentences to death.” He died at 41 bis, although his physical and psychological condition no longer allowed him to pose a risk to society. The ECHR condemned our country for that case, but not for 41 bis itself.

“Actually, the Provenzano case is not an isolated case because most of the prisoners in this regime are serving life sentences, and 41 bis for them is actually almost automatically renewed. Marfufi’s affiliation with the criminal organization he belongs to has changed,” he explains. In fact, the dangerousness of the prisoner is not really re-examined, and we eventually move forward with constant renewals. In addition, the regime is often combined with life imprisonment, further demonstrating the not only temporary but permanent nature of 41 bis: according to Antigone’s data on prisoners in 41 bis, there are 298 life sentences.

For Martufi, Cospito risks becoming a new Provenzano case. “If he continues his hunger strike even if it is force-feeding, that man will have his normal motor and cognitive abilities and his conditions of detention, irrespective of the seriousness or otherwise of the crimes he was convicted of, Article 41 reciprocates. Therefore, if the State decides to attack him, this is definitely a violation of Article 3 by the ECHR. would be regarded as a form of torture”.

Source: Today IT