Italian jails are packed: the nation has 65,000 prisoners, yet it can house only 40,000.
On January 13, the Italian government declared a state of emergency in Italian prisons. In response, Justice minister Angelino Alfano presented a four-point plan to address the years-long problem, saying ‘the plan is without precedent in the history of this Republic.'
First on the agenda is the construction of 47 new prisons, estimated to cost 600 million euro, to increase the correctional system's capacity to over 80,000 by 2012.
In the meantime, Alfano proposed new legislation that could allow home-based detention for inmates with less than one year left to serve, and probation coupled with community service for those sentenced to less than three years.
Many believe that the conditions caused by overcrowding have contributed to a spike in suicides among prisoners. There were 71 suicides in 2009 and 6 in the first 15 days of 2010 alone.