Prison Guards Arrested on Charges of Torturing Detainees

Six prison officers working at the Lorusso and Cutugno prisons have been arrested in Turin, on suspicion of having repeatedly tortured prisoners between April 2017 and November 2018.

The guards were arrested on 17 October and are now under house arrest. The investigation has so far identified five victims, who were all incarcerated for sexual offences, specifically child abuse.

Brutal violence

The guards are reported to have threatened the prisoners lives and suggested they commit suicide. It has also been reported that guards routinely beat prisoners as soon as they arrive in prison. One prisoner said that after he was beaten by the guards he was left in his cells without a mattress, forced to sleep on the metal frame of the cot, and also deprived of fresh air time and medical attention.

Another one was dragged from his cell at night, taken to another floor and beaten up. When he tried to get up, the agents allegedly kicked him in the legs and pushed him against the wall.

Inmates afraid to report incidents

According to the inmate's report to the investigators, the guards wear gloves and aim for soft spots like the abdomen while beating prisoners so as not to leave bruises. The officers were also careful to keep away from the surveillance cameras, with the violence often taking place inside cells, in the stairwells and in passages between wings.

Although the episodes of torture went on for more than a year, the inmates hardly went to the prison doctor for medical treatment and, If they did, they would justify the signs of violence with fake falls.

Reporting to the Guarantor of the rights of detainees

The investigations, conducted by the public prosecutors Paolo Borgna, Enrica Gabetta and Francesco Saverio Pelosi, began thanks to a report by Monica Gallo, who is the guarantor of the Detainees of the City of Turin, after he became aware of several episodes of this type when talking to prisoners. He then promptly reported it to the authorities.

Guards charged with torture

The guards are charged with torture. In particular, they have been accused of violating Article 613 bis of the Criminal Code, which "punishes with imprisonment from 4 to 10 years anyone who, with violence or serious threats or acting with cruelty causes acute physical suffering or a verifiable psychological trauma to a person deprived of his personal freedom”.

The crime of torture was introduced into Italian law in July 2017, much later than the sentences pronounced by the European Court of Human Rights against Italy. The law, however, has received much criticism as not being very courageous. Insiders have especially criticised three aspects of the law: the provision of plurality of violent conduct, the reference to the verifiability of psychic trauma, and the ordinary limitation periods.

Not an isolated case

Unfortunately, the episode of the Turin prison is not an isolated case. Recently, the situation in Italian prisons has been progressively deteriorating and violence is widespread.

Politics and public debate have also contributed to the poisoning of the climate. After the arrest of the six prison police officers, for example, the former Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, said: “A civil State punishes mistakes but that the word of a detainee causes the arrests of a policeman pisses me off terribly. So, I express my solidarity with those six family men."