EU Watch

Italy Election: Here Are the Parties' Programs on ​Justice & Security

In order to help voters make an informed decision on election day, 4 March, Liberties member Antigone has researched each party's position on justice, security and prison.

by Federica Brioschi

After the three articles on the political parties' positions on cannabis, on immigration and the law on citizenship, and on LGBT rights, Liberties member Antigone has brought together the main issues related to justice and security that are now being discussed by the candidates.

Antigone's proposals regarding justice and prison include the review and revision of many laws for which punishment greatly outweighs the true offensiveness of the transgression, an enhanced use of non-custodial sentences, and a residual role of detention in order to prevent and punish those behaviors that can seriously damage the fundamental rights of any person and undermine social coexistence.

So, what are the parties’ programs regarding justice, security and prison?

  • Center-right coalition: The center-right coalition has a common program, but the parties within the coalition sometimes don’t share the same views. On the point of legitimate self-defense, the coalition thinks that the current law doesn’t protect enough shop owners who use guns against whoever tries to rob them, nor does it protect whoever uses guns against thieves who try to steal from private property. With regard to security, the coalition asks for harsher penalties (also for small crimes), building new prisons to fight prison overcrowding and hiring more police officers. It also seeks the modification of the penitentiary law in a restrictive way by, for example, reviewing dynamic surveillance and the revision of the law against torture, which is already not in compliance with the standards set down by the Committee Against Torture. A moderate side of the coalition calls for the strengthening of probation, the impossibility for the public prosecutor to appeal the judgments of first instance that acquitted the accused.
  • Center-left coalition
    • Partito Democratico: In its program, Partito Democratico doesn’t give much space to justice and security; therefore, we have collected all the policies that it has pursued in recent years. First, it has pushed for an overall reform of the penitentiary law, but it is still uncertain whether it will pass; second, it instituted the National Guarantor of the rights of people deprived of liberty, which acts as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) as prescribed by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). Moreover, it has adopted several measures that were prescribed by the European Court of Human Rights through the Torreggiani judgment, such as a compensation mechanism for detainees whose rights have been violated by prison conditions. Finally, it closed Judiciary Psychiatric Hospitals (OPG) for people who could not be sentenced because they were unable to stand a trial - but who were socially dangerous. The end of OPGs has come along the creation of REMS, which are residences that aim to cure people who can’t stand a trial and are given a security measure because are socially dangerous. OPGs were, instead, more security-oriented. However, it has agreed to water down the law against torture and has formulated the Minniti-Orlando decrees that undermine guaranties for asylum seekers and that give power to majors to limit in some circumstances the freedom of movement of some groups of citizens (such as the poor).
    • +Europa: +Europa’s program on justice is wider than that of others. Among the proposals, the party would like to pose more limits to the use of pre-trial detention, which is now overused. Alternative measures to detention should also have a more central role rather than prison, which should be used as an extrema ratio. The party also proposes identification numbers for law enforcement officials in order to be able to identify them when they wear equipment that makes them look all alike. Furthermore, a proposal that aims to limit abuses in police stations, is to install videocameras in all of them. With regard to penalties the program also includes the abolition of life-sentence and to introduce the use of restorative justice. Finally, the party criticizes the use of the emergency decrees such as the law on immigration and security that were passed under the Minister of the Interiors, Minniti.
  • Movimento 5 Stelle: In its program, Movimento 5 Stelle seeks the abolition of the time limit to prosecute a crime because, according to the party’s views, accused people tend to stretch the length of the trial so that it reaches the time limit and they are not punished for their crimes. For the same reason, Movimento 5 Stelle would also abolish the prohibition of reformatio in peius, which makes it impossible for a judge of second instance to give a harsher penalty than the judge of first instance. In this way, the party thinks that fewer people would be prone to appeal and to instrumentally use the appeal only to reach the time limitation of the crime of which they are accused. The program also adds that new prisons should be built to tackle prison overcrowding and that more police officers should be hired. There is no reference to alternative measures to detention, but some members of the party have mentioned less punitive approaches that aim to the reintegration of detainees.
  • Liberi e Uguali: Liberi e Uguali is a party that originated from a group of parliamentarians who decided to leave Partito Democratico and other people from civil society. Its program on justice is not very wide, but it is possible to look at the stands that it took during the last legislation on this issue. Liberi e Uguali's position on prison is to guarantee detainees' rights and dignity by (among other things) diminishing the prison population; moreover, several members of the party gave their support to the latest reform of the penitentiary law initiated by Partito Democratico. Another issue that is highlighted by the program is the modification of the law against torture so that the definition complies to the Convention against Torture. Finally, the party has expressed contrariety to the "mitigation" of 41-bis, a particularly harsh regime that is present in the Italian penitentiary law.
  • Potere al Popolo: Potere al Popolo dedicates more space to justice. The party proposes a wider reform of the penitentiary system so that the use of alternatives to detention is enhanced. Another important point that Potere al Popolo brings foreword is the abolition of life-sentences (including life-sentence without benefits), as it is contrary to the aim of the penalty, which is the resocialization of the inmate. The party also mentions the 41-bis regime; however, unlike Liberi e Uguali, it aims to the abolition of the regime while proposing other ways to deal with mafia-related crimes and criminals. Another topic linked to justice that Potere al Popolo mentions is the legalization of cannabis and the decriminalization of all other drugs. With regard to torture and inhuman or degrading treatments, the party proposes a modification of the definition of torture that is currently used in the Italian penal code, as it not abiding by the definition provided by the Convention against Torture. In order to reduce the impunity of police forces, the party proposes the introduction of identification numbers for all police officers. Regarding security, the program includes the abolition of the norms of the Minniti decree that give more power to city mayors to ban some categories of people (namely, poor people, prostitutes and other vulnerable people) from city centers.
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