Italy Prison Clemency Measure Draws Fire

The Associated Press
Friday, August 4, 2006; 3:55 AM

ROME -- A nationwide clemency aimed at easing Italy's overcrowded jails drew criticism after a man jailed for domestic abuse allegedly tried to kill his ex-wife hours after his release and another freed prisoner attempted to rob a restaurant.

Reports of repeat crimes made headlines Thursday following last week's release of some 12,000 inmates, whose sentences were reduced after lawmakers approved the clemency measure.

The new legislation shaves three years off certain sentences; mobsters, pedophiles, rapists and terrorists were excluded from clemency. Italy's prisons were designed for 42,500 inmates but were housing about 61,000.

Prisoner advocates said many released inmates had nowhere to go and were going to have a hard time finding jobs.

"It was like opening a dam. If the river is not large enough, in front of such a mass of water, it floods," said Francesco Gesualdi, director of the New Development Model Center in Pisa.

Gesualdi said centers and associations offering shelter to the released prisoners were struggling to cope with the sudden rush.

"A lower number would have been more manageable," said Gesualdi. "The main issue is the rehabilitation of the people who are released from jail. To open the doors and let them out while society is not ready to welcome them carries a risk that they soon will go back to jail."

Authorities said they were monitoring about 20 suspected extremists who were freed. While nobody convicted of terrorism charges went free, some who were granted clemency were suspected of terror links and had been jailed for other crimes.

Among reported cases, a 45-year-old was arrested in Genoa for trying to rob a restaurant five hours after being released from prison Tuesday, police said.

A 54-year-old man in Udine, northern Italy, was arrested after allegedly attempting to kill his ex-wife hours after his release. Authorities said he had been serving an eight-month sentence for domestic violence.

Two former prisoners in Sardinia who were celebrating their release in a bar were also sent back to jail after scuffling with police officers who had asked to see their identification.

© 2006 The Associated Press