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Letta cabinet approves prison decree to reduce overcrowding

Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to fix problem by year's end

17 December, 19:46
Letta cabinet approves prison decree to reduce overcrowding (ANSA) - Rome, December 17 - Italy's cabinet on Tuesday approved a prison decree granting early release to 1,700 detainees and reducing the prison population by 3,000 inmates over the next two years, Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri told reporters at a news briefing.

Premier Enrico Letta said that while ''citizens have nothing to fear from these measures'', the decree will reduce chronic overcrowding and bring Italy's prison system up to EU standards. The European Court of Human Rights in January ruled that overcrowding in Italy's prisons violated basic rights, ordering the government to fix the problem within a year.

President Giorgio Napolitano followed it up by repeatedly calling on parliament to fix prison conditions in Italy.

''The decree is a first, significant response to the president's call for action. It will also avert sanctions from international organisms," the premier said. "It is important to avoid Italy being held up as one of the countries that doesn't respect prisoners' rights''.

The decree calls for a national ombudsman for prisoners' rights, Letta said. "Judges will still have the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to grant an amnesty or to reduce a sentence," the justice minister told reporters. Electronic ankle bracelets will be used but only for those under house arrest, she added.

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