Italy's Draghi promises prison reform after beatings of inmates

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi gestures as he speaks at a news conference where he is expected to map out the country's next moves in loosening coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Rome, Italy, April 16

ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised reform of Italy's overcrowded and understaffed prisons on Wednesday after the publication of a video showing guards beating inmates in a jail near Naples.

The beatings took place more than a year ago in the prison of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, in reprisals for riots during Italy's first wave of COVID-19, but the brutal images only came to light when they were published last month by newspaper Domani.

"What we saw deeply shocked the conscience of Italians," Draghi told reporters after visiting the prison with Justice Minister Marta Cartabia.

"The investigations in progress will establish individual responsibilities, but the collective responsibility lies with a system that must be reformed," Draghi said, adding that Cartabia was working on a series of measures.

"The government has no intention of forgetting," he said.

At least 12 prisoners died when riots broke out in jails across Italy in March last year over overcrowding and curbs on family visits amid rising coronavirus infections.

The video filmed at Santa Maria Capua Vetere on April 6 2020, showed guards kicking, punching and repeatedly hitting prisoners with truncheons as they were forced to walk down corridors with their hands on their heads or behind their backs.

Draghi said Italy had twice been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights over its overcrowded prisons, which hold some 61,250 inmates, about 10,000 more than they were built to accommodate.

Cartabia said the government intended to hire more prison staff, spend more money to train them, make more use of alternative punishments to prison, and build eight new jail blocks, including one at Santa Maria Capua Vetere.

"It's not enough to condemn what happened, we have to remove the causes," she said.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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