Democracy & Justice

​Report: Incarcerations In Italian Prisons On The Rise

In its 18th annual report on Italian prisons, Antigone highlights worrying trends: prisoner numbers are again on the rise, and prisons sit at an average occupancy rate of 107.4%.

by Federica Brioschi

On 28 April 2022, Antigone presented its 18th report on detention conditions in Italy, “Il carcere visto da dentro” (The prison seen from inside). The association has been visiting Italian prisons since 1998 to monitor prison conditions, and over the past 24 years has made around 2,000 visits to all 189 Italian prisons. Ninety-seven visits were made in 2021 alone. This monitoring activity is carried out by the Observatory on prison conditions, which involves around 100 volunteers scattered across all of Italy.

Prison population rising again

The total number of people detained in Italian prisons had dropped significantly during the first year of the pandemic, but now has started to grow again. Detainees went from 53,364 at the end of 2020 to 54,609 at the end of March 2022, when the official average occupancy rate was 107.4%; however, due to small or large maintenance works in several prisons, the actual capacity of the institutions is often lower than the official one.

Foreign nationals represent 31.3% of the prison population and women make up 4.2%. Of the 2,276 women prisoners, 576 are housed in the four all-female prisons in Italy. With the exception of the Venice Prison, the other three such institutions are significantly overcrowded. Three quarters of the detained women are hosted in all-female sections within prisons for men, where services for women are not always available.

Still too many pre-trial detainees

As of 31 December 2021, inmates with a final sentence were 69.6% of the total while 31.1% of prisoners were without a final sentence, and detainees awaiting trial (i.e., pre-trial detainees) were 15.6% of the total. Despite a constant trend towards a reduction in the use of pre-trial detention, the numbers of pre-trial detainees are still very high.

With regard to the number of incarcerations per detainee, as of 31 December 2021, only 38% of all inmates were on their first incarceration. The remaining 62% had already been in prison at least one other time. Eighteen percent had already been there 5 or more times before.


The full Report is freely available here.

The press release in English is available here.

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