On Thursday 20th May a trial will be held in the Court of Rome against five comrades charged with unauthorised demonstration. The “seriously illicit act” took place on 13th May 2016 outside the premises of DAP (Department of Prison Administration) and was one of a series of initiatives of the campaign “Pagine contro la tortura” [pages against torture].
The intention of the initiative was to give books to those responsible for the treatment of imprisoned people and prison management. A symbolic gesture, accompanied by speeches on the microphone where we expressed our contempt for those who, sitting comfortably at shiny desks, make decisions that heavily affect the lives (and more and more often also the deaths) of those inside the jails.
The campaign “Pagine contro la tortura” began in 2015 following the news, which became public after considerable delay, that since 2011 anyone held in 41bis units cannot receive books, magazines or other printed material by post or through visits with relatives and lawyers. The only possibility: buy them from the governor of the prison where they are detained.
Anyone who knows prison, also indirectly through the imprisonment of their loved ones, knows how important access to reading and studying is. For those detained under 41bis, moreover, this can be the only chance of “escape” from a cruel everyday life.
We remind you what this daily life consists of:
– Putting a person in a jail far away from where their relatives live
– Isolation in cell 22 hours a day (it is only possible to see other prisoners during two hours in the exercise yard in groups of maximum 4 people, the only ones they can talk to)
– Visits (one hour a month) are authorized exclusively with family members and without any direct contact because of glass partitions, cameras and phones
– One phone call a month for10 minutes and only if no visit has taken place. A family member authorized to receive phone calls will take it in a prison near their home
– The Gruppo Operativo Mobile (GOM) [Mobile Operative Group] operate in the unit, a special group of prison police notorious for beatings in jails and the massacres carried out in Genoa in 2001
– “Video-conferencing trial”: prisoners on trial can’t go to court but have to follow the trial from a cell in the prison where they are locked up that is equipped with audio and video connection, put in place according to the judges’ discretion. A heavy limitation to right of defence
– Censorship-reduction in mail
– Impossible to access benefits decreed by law unless prisoners decide to collaborate with the judicial authorities
The intention of those taking part in the campaign is not only to sensitize participation in a struggle against the decision to enforce a drastic limit to access to reading, the umpteenth abuse of the State against its imprisoned hostages, but also to open a visible crack on the conditions of real daily torture which those under 41bis and (let’s not forget) their families are forced to experience.
Among the analyses produced by the campaign there has always been the acknowledgement that emergency laws and rules (such as those that brought about the “tough prison” regime) spread in time: sooner or later, any restriction adopted in the 41bis units, will penetrate the High Security units and the “common law” ones, under different names and forms.
There is no satisfaction in proving that prophetic reflection to be right. The management of prisons since March last year is the most obvious demonstration. Think of glass partitions during visits and the latters’ reduction, when not cancellation, as well as that of the telephone calls to replace them, the strengthening of governors’ autonomy in making decisions, the extension of video-conferencing trials. Not to mention, as we return to the specific question that led to the demo for which the comrades are on trial today, the extension to other units of the reduction in the number of books allowed in a cell, as well as governors’ discretional authorization for reading according to the subject. To this we add the fact that total lack of access to prison for people other than those who work inside has increased the lack of news from outside and the darkness of those walls.
Last but certainly not least, we should remember that last year there was a reshuffle at the top of DAP, where there are now two outstanding representatives of the anti-mafia and antiterrorism direction, i.e. people whose careers were built on the so-called “war on organized crime”, with repeated operations and arrests. People trained in the perspective of “tough prison” and of “throwing away the key”, people who are now exercising one of the highest powers of the State: prison management, i.e. its logistics and the treatment of those imprisoned in them.
To say all this doesn’t mean, as the media often say, that we are “accomplices of the mafia”.
We are against the State and against all the manifestations of its widespread power. Certainly we are not of those who cultivate behaviours that are bullying, status-seeking, scornful of dignity and greedy for profit.
That is why we are against prison, which is nothing more than the emblem of all this.
And in the face of the monstrosity that prison and 41bis in particular represent, we really wonder whether an unauthorized demo outside DAP can be a problem to society rather than an annoyance for the zealous clerks in these offices.
In solidarity with the comrades on trial and one certainty: you won’t reduce us to silence, nor will we allow you to hide your infamy inside armoured cabinets.