Senate gives final approval to jail over-crowding decree
Critics say new law will let serious offenders get out early19 February, 15:43
By a vote of 147 to 95, the decree was approved on second reading but its measures have been controversial.
During debate earlier this month in the House, Northern League MP Gianluca Buonanno was expelled when he accused the ruling Democratic Party (PD) of being in league with the mafia because he said the measures would release thousands of offenders.
However, the measures do say that those convicted for mafia association and related violations would not be eligible for early release.
Italian prisons are more than 15% over capacity and overcrowding is a factor in high suicide rates.
In response, the government has been granting early release for less-serious crimes and the use of alternative punishments to jail will help reduce the prison population.
President Giorgio Napolitano has repeatedly called for amnesties to help improve conditions in Italy's jails.
And last May, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to make dramatic improvements to its prison system to stop overcrowding and undo violations against prison rights.
That order gave Italy a deadline of May 20, 2014.