Rights court orders Italy to address crowded prisons
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday gave Italy a year to reduce overcrowding in its prisons, ruling in favour of seven inmates who had complained of living in cramped and miserable conditions.
The inmates at the Busto Arsizio and Piacenza prisons complained of sharing cells of just nine square metres (100 square feet) with two other people. Prisoners are meant to have at least four square metres of personal space, according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
According to the court, "The shortage of space to which the applicants had been subjected had been exacerbated by other conditions such as the lack of hot water over long periods, and inadequate lighting and ventilation in Piacenza prison.
"All these shortcomings, although not in themselves inhuman and degrading, amounted to additional suffering."
Probing more widely, the court found "structural and systemic" crowding in the country's prisons and gave Italy a 12-month deadline to make changes at a national level.
Italy's Justice Minister Paola Severino said she was not surprised by the ruling.
"I am deeply humiliated but, sadly, the ruling does not surprise me," she said. "I will continue to fight to ensure prison conditions match those of a civilised country."
Italy has 142 inmates for every 100 prison spaces available, according to a report by Antigone, a charity that defends prisoners' rights.
© 2013 AFP