Life Imprisonment for Mafiosi Unconstitutional in Italy
The Italian Court of Justice considered the sentence of life imprisonment was inconsistent with the Italian constitution. Mafiosi will not need to cooperate with Justice to apply for parole.
Life imprisonment is unconstitutional
The Constitutional Court of Italy ruled that life imprisonment was against the Italian Constitution. It gives until May 2022 for the Parliament to revisit the law by still taking into account the nature of the crimes, the rules of incarceration and by maintaining the value of cooperating with judicial authorities.
The Court of Cassation raised the issue after a mafioso who had received a life sentence for mafia or mafia-related offences applied for release on parole, after 30 years spent in prison, without having cooperated with the judicial authorities.
In Italy, a convict sentenced of perpetual imprisonment can ask for parole after 26 years of jail with the claim of good behavior. Moreover, every 6 months, the sentence can be reduced, and someone can be granted parole after 21 years.
But some criminals are not eligible for such requests, unless the convicts would cooperate with the Italian justice.
No need to turn on Mafiosi partners for parole
Since 1992, Italy adopted a strict justice regulation, called “ostativo“, for crimes related to mafia activity, terrorism, pedo-pornography, large drug organizations, etc.
Life imprisonment for those criminals, or “ergolasto ostativo” which is mostly given to mafiosi, restrict flexibility on the incarceration conditions. They wouldn’t have access to parole, neither to home detention or temporary release nor access to jobs outside of prison. The only possibility for them to exit prison is if they collaborate with justice, for example by giving names and turning on their former partners. It was the only possibility they were not considered as a threat to society anymore. It also means that they repent, and therefore become “pentiti“.
For Mafia members, breaking the code of loyalty and working with justice is the ultimate form of treason. For the Italian justice it was the only proof that criminals ceased all links with the Mafia.
In 2019, The European Court of Human Rights considered that the “ostativo” system was against human dignity because it removed the right to be hopeful. Hopeful in regaining freedom someday. The court disapproved that the menace of a convict to society was primarily based on the collaboration with justice.
According to the Italian Constitution, all punishment must tend to reeducating the convict. The decision will remove a tool for Italy to fight against mafia. However, good behavior will not automatically grant parole for anyone.
Media sources and useful links:
- Convicted Post Office workers have names cleared, BBC, April 2021, Free access
- Post Office apologises in false accounting scandal climbdown, The Guardian, October 2020, Free access