Translated by act for freedom now
I was made to think that the situation of the place where I was to be transferred was pretty much uncertain. I have to admit that when I was taken to the registration office of the San Vittore prison and was told ‘Cremona’, I stared and repeated incredulous: ‘Cremona?’ I didn’t even know that there was a prison there!
During the journey I had the opportunity to get nostalgic: Piazza Napoli, Ticinese, the junction to Alessandria… Then I fall asleep and woke up in Caorso and a little later I was at my new abode. After spending what it seemed quite a long time in a very small and empty cell which only contained graffiti left by all the people who had passed from there, I underwent the usual medical check and search, and was told that I’d be placed in unit ‘C’, and they said this as if I must know what it was like.
It seems that unit ‘C’ is the only unit in the prison where cells are constantly locked and where there are long term prisoners (even 15-18 years) and prisoners who caused trouble in other units.
After two weeks at S. Vittore where cells stayed open 12 hours per day and were wider than the 4×2 (and I’m too generous here) one I am in now, the impression was strong. My cellmate (a 23-year-old gypsy) reminded me, and so did the graffiti on the walls, that this is a shit prison where nothing works…
Two days later he was moved to another cell and since then I’ve been on my own. After overcoming an earlier stage of shock, though, I got used to it. The fact that cells are locked is not really a big problem and all the prisoners of the unit (or almost all) say that here it’s quieter. The new wing with open cells containing 3 people in each (here there are two people in each cell, even if at times we managed to make it three), a shower and a table to sit and eat are depicted as more messy and in fact most prisoners who made a mess during demos outside were right in that wing.
Many told me they’d do anything to be alone in the cell, and I have to say they’re right. In the evening I keep the TV switched off and reply to your letters listening to cicadas!
We get 4 hours a day in the yard plus 2-3 hours of sociality. Three times a week, instead of going to the yard (a small concrete cube of 15×20 and 5-metre long walls) we go to a nice playground where we can play football and tennis and where there is also half athletic track: yes, it’s split in two halves.
The prison food is often inedible; only salad, fruit (it’d be difficult to damage it), boiled eggs and little more are worth something. Those who can do it cook their meals with their food and I’m getting organized myself in this respect, even if it’ll take time. Then, owing to some absurd rule, here homemade food is not allowed, so I’ll have to do without the goodies I used to get at S. Vittore.
If at S. Vittore you could find screws excited or anyway proud of their role (at the registration office I saw one wearing a silver necklace with a handcuffs pendant… I swear!), here it seems there’s no such character. They perform their job with the same automatism and naturalness as someone working at the post office, and in fact it seems that your life is in the hands of municipal employees… Put it that way, it makes one shudder, and rightly so, but bureaucracy is extremely ordinary, so one can implement strategies in order to survive and get into the rhythm.
I want to say that there’s a great deal of resignation here, so much resignation that it seems that many prisoners try to pretend they’re not in jail and get upset at anything that reminds them they are. The cries for freedom coming from outside were met with indifference by many here, and maybe with annoyance too. Here the word freedom is only whispered (like ‘fuck’ at school), and a proper prisoner, the one who knows how to face prison (horrible expression of the prison language), doesn’t pronounce it.
I reckon that this could be a defensive strategy: if you have to be locked up like a hen in a hen-house for years on end, you try to enact psychological instruments of defence in order to resist. There are those who are on their own and those who are in a group, those who play the leaders and those who play the followers. The goal is not redemption but survival.
The topic of reduction of the sentence adds to this. Before coming here, I didn’t know about a bill that guarantees 75 days of reduction for every six months spent without disciplinary reports. This means 5 months of reduction for every year of good behaviour. It’s no little thing for those who are sentenced to years in prison. Today a Sicilian man proudly told me about his 54 months of good behaviour. If you consider that they can give you a report for any screw-up, say a quarrel with another prisoner or a guard, you understand how thanks to this system they managed to pacify the situation in prison. Although in the unit there’s a prisoner who boasts about his 37 disciplinary reports in almost 6 years of jail.
Long term prisoners tell me the jail was a completely different before the introduction of this system. Beatings, revolts, strikes. As far as I can see none of this happens now. They managed to exchange anger with resignation so as to run the place at their leisure.
At the S. Vittore prison I met prisoners who used the word ‘comrade’, but if there they found it hard to understand who I was, here they can’t really get it. One of them told me he read an article on the Turin-Lyon railway track. In order for them to understand me I have to say friends for comrades and family for solidarity.
In general they are all surprised at demos outside the prison and at the many letters I receive, as well as at what I told them about manifestations of solidarity: from fund raising to the many demos I can’t say how much this is appreciated but it generates a great deal of curiosity. We’ll see if we can get something more out of that.
The reasons why I’m inside are pretty much obscure, even to the guards, but the thing is not regarded as bad in itself and is generally linked to an ideal of revolt. Some call me NO TAV, Red Brigade or ACAB, according to the mood. Foreigners are those who show more solidarity and who are less inclined to compromise. Many Italians who pose as ‘proper prisoners’ laugh and make jokes with the guards in a relation of semi-friendship which really puzzles me; but on the other hand many screws come from the same areas of Italy and share the same culture, so to speak, in a sociological sense rather than a literal one.
This is a waiting place. It looks like a time bubble that remained in the nineteen century, a temple of bureaucracy where decisions made elsewhere by someone else are blindly enforced. Time doesn’t have the same meaning as outside. We can do a comparison with the theory of relativity, otherwise I couldn’t explain it. Days pass by slowly, but time seems to fly, maybe because we waste it. There’s no anxiety to do things as there’s outside, or rather there’s a lot of anxiety; but you also know that if you fill in a form to get a broom this could take even 5 days. If it goes on for years on end, this situation can cause a lot of damage, it’s sufficient to look in the faces of my companions of misfortune. At the moment I’m trying to live it as best as I can, like a sort of Erasmus in the Ancièn Regime.
A prisoner from Veneto once told me that here I’d get a degree in patience, all right, let’s take this title too, I can’t afford to have my blood poisoned, I’d be destroyed in the space of a few days. But I can’t disown my ideas either, and forget how disgusted I’m at places like this and the people who run them.
It’s going to be hard, even harder in a war of nerves as a jail is, but I’ll win, I’m sure of that.
Now I leave you because I see that my grammar, spelling and concentration are getting bad compared to when I started. You get so much tired when you don’t do anything.
A sarà düra!
A joyful hug to you all!
C.C. Via Palosca 2
Since 11th July he’s been locked up in the Borgo San Nicola prison in Lecce. Since then he’s been in solitary confinement: the door of the cell is closed all day long and he’s meant to spend time in the yard alone. He chose not to go to the yard, alone in a small and dirty hole. The responsible for this treatment is the prison administration, which justify it with the fact that the other prisoners of the section can’t meet anyone. On 3rd August he was moved to another cell, which made his situation worse: the new cell is smaller, less clean and the TV set doesn’t work. Moreover the cells next to his are empty. Mail and books are delivered regularly or almost regularly, and he managed to hear the solidarity demos held outside the prison.
C.C. Borgo S.Nicola
Via Paolo Perrone 4
He’s now being held in the prison of Busto Arsizio, after having been moved on 26th July. On arrival he had a meeting with the deputy guard chief, who clearly told him that his person is of no interest for the prison, as long as unless he behaves and complies with the regulations.
Lucio shares the cell with two boys of his age, with whom he gets on well. The door of the cell is always locked, except during the 2 hours in the yard in the morning and the 3 hours of sociality in the afternoon. The four units of the prison have yards, one for each unit (6mx10m), rooms for sociality and two football pitches. There’s a gym too but it can be accessed after filling a form, and the same goes for any other request such as activities, watches, belts, shoes, and it takes almost a month. Lucio let us know that guards are very formal, respectful of the regulation and more detached in their relations with prisoners than those in S. Vittore, but this doesn’t bother him, quite the opposite: the guards’ detachment greatly simplifies his life in the prison unit and makes his intention not to engage with the screws easier.
C.C. Via Cassano Magnago 102
21052 Busto Arsizio (Varese)