Maddalena, one of the anarchists subjected to bail conditions following operation ‘Outlaw’ (Bologna, 6th April: 5 comrades imprisoned, 7 on bail and anarchist place Fuoriluogo closed down by the cops), was arrested on 12th May for breaching those bail conditions. She’s currently being held in the maximum security unit of the Rebibbia prison in Rome, from where she wrote about the situation inside and the protests going on in some Italian jails.
I inform you that today [23rd May] the wings A1 and A2 in the maximum security will start a three-day protest by refusing food trolleys and shopping in the prison in solidarity with detainees who embarked on similar protests in other Italian jails to denounce overcrowding and prison conditions.
The call for this protest came from the Radical party, which – like all political parties – are not at all interested in the question of prison as an institution but they only want to defuse the explosive situation inside prisons.
You already know my point of view on this protest… Certainly I don’t believe that a protest, and what’s more a protest proposed by a shit party like the Radicals, can ever sort out the problems inside prisons (as the problem is prison itself and the system that maintains it). If anything, I think we need a different and more effective kind of struggle, a struggle which aims at damaging the prison system and which is carried out on initiative of prisoners.
Anyway the detainees of this unit want to contribute to the protest in a symbolic way in these three days, as prisoners in different jails are doing the same.
By the way, let me tell you that the prisoners of the common unit appreciated greatly your presence outside this fucking prison! Your shouts of solidarity (I’ve been told about that) warmed hearts and souls and strengthened the protest of today.
Shame that in this concrete bunker of the maximum security unit, where we are locked up, we couldn’t hear your voice! Damned it! To tell you the truth I had the impression I heard something but maybe it was just the noise of the TV of one of the girls. Anyway I’m very happy that you were outside there and most importantly that the struggle is going on.
This unit is really a replica of the control system in force outside. Even if our cells are open from 8am to 8pm and we have spaces such as a little room for ‘sociality’, a well-stocked library, a gym (which lacks functioning equipment), and we can see trees and a garden outside, any little movement we make is strictly controlled and monitored. There are cameras in every corner, at least 2 in each room, and in the exercise yard there are 7 of them! Any movement is watched by these electronic eyes, we have no privacy at all: you are either watched or listened to (I’m sure there are bugs in the cells, at least in those of A1)… well, in prison you are in the enemy’s den..
The reason is clear: inside, just like outside, they try to prevent all forms of rebellion and of ‘discomfort’. Compared to the jails I’ve visited before, this one is the most outstanding example of the system in force outside. Each prisoner becomes the guardian of herself, as she knows she is being controlled constantly, and the situation is made worse by the fact that they give you some ‘comforts’ in order for you to keep silent and for any spark of rebellion to be avoided. The chief of the unit controls everything (movements and habits of each prisoner) from a monitoring room. For this reason we hardly see the guards in the unit, their presence would be useless as concerns control. On the contrary, the fact you don’t see them helps avoid possible conflicts with ‘the enemy’.
When I saw the open cells, at first I almost felt more ‘free’ (it was the first time I experienced this in a jail), but in a couple of days I realized I was wrong. It’s not worth while. You can only move in very restricted spaces and soon you get so much bored! This is a prison inside the prison. In a common unit you need to move in order to get to visiting halls, offices, etc. On the contrary here everything – visits, infirmary, etc – is inside these two small sections (there are 8 cells in total, including the 3 of A2): you can’t move out of here! Even the office staff come to see you if you need to notify something, you can’t even go to their bloody office! In other words, a small prison inside the prison.
The unit is often visited by local politicians and shit like that. Cops and journalists present it as an example of integration and rehabilitation of prisoners. It is considered as a ‘model’ unit because it shows that prison works by contributing to the rehabilitation of detainees. Indeed it is what it does: you become a ‘good’ one, thanks to the conscious or unconscious acceptance of the prison routine.
Okay, my friends, I just wanted to describe the maximum security unit of Rebibbia as I knew very little about it, like many people outside.
For now it’s all.
A big hug, always for total freedom.
Greetings to all my comrades, those on bail, those under investigation, and those in jail, who have been recently moved to distant prisons.
What bonds us is much stronger than any distance!
A big hug to the comrades detained in Switzerland and to all those who, outside, keep on the struggle against the capitalist system of social control.
Strong in my heart and soul!
Alongside the prisoners in struggle!