Italy : Text letter by Anarchist comrades Anna, Silvia and Agnese from inside l’Aquila prison High security section

Act for free received by Email 8/5/19
Early wake-up call Saturday 6th April: 3 of us are transferred to L’Aquila from the AS2 section (high security) in Rebibbia prison in Rome. In practice the AS2 section in Rebibbia was shut down in the days following our transfer and may have been converted into an AS3 section given the overcrowded conditions for prisoners accused and/or convicted of criminal conspiracy – Art. 416 of the Italian penal code (a similar thing happened in March 2017 when the entire female AS2 section of Latina prison – communists and anarchists – was moved to Rebibbia and later converted into an AS3 section).
Currently, we are in the AS2 section of the Abruzzo region which now holds the sad record of being the only female high security section in Italy classed as AS2. It’s a very small section comprising four single cells and is known as the “sezione gialla” [“yellow section”]. The space was set up and used in the past as a female 41bis section [41bis is the hard prison regime set up in Italy in the early 90s] and is one that now – other than us “new arrivals” (forgive the excesses of inmate terminology but there you go) – also holds a muslim prisoner classed as AS2 who, following the transfer of two other prisoners held in the same section in February, spent more than 20 days in isolation. We can therefore assume that our arrival helped the DAP [Italian department of prison administration] avoid any embarrassment regarding the conditions of her detention.

From the very beginning the GOM’s [special unit used in 41bis sections] militaristic and ridiculous management of the section was evident (they are the ones managing it here) as were their attempts to apply the rigour and control typical of the 41bis regime. In any case, this prison has male and female 41bis sections (where the only female communist prisoner classed as 41bis has been buried alive here for years) a REMS section [“Residences for the implementation of safety measures” which replaced the psychiatric prison hospitals established in the 70s], AS3 sections, our AS2 section and a “regular security” section with around 20 prisoners who work as labourers seeing as the rest of the prison is heavily guarded. The prison management’s first move was an emphatic attempt to apply article 18 of the Italian penitentiary regulation in order to censor mail and news, as explained to us by an inspired GOM inspector and justified by the AS2 section regulations which automatically include censorship (an issue that doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the prison but of the local judicial authority assigned to each of us), going as far as to consider applying the 41bis regime to some of us. The justifications provided reflect (pathological) delusions of omnipotence and of power that involve the entire chain of command, from the prison director to the last officer.
After the effective block on incoming and outgoing post in the first week and in the context of discussions with uniforms of every kind and rank, it emerged that L’Aquila prison had gone above and beyond the call of duty and had asked the previously mentioned judicial authorities to censor newspapers “in order to avoid contact with criminal areas of [geographic] origin” and to censor post given the alert of the “upper echelons of the DAP to increase the control and monitoring of correspondence for the prisoner in question, particularly at this historic moment in which Europe is embroiled in a series of terrorist attacks”: basically, censorship can be applied both to post that is sent from respective areas of geographic origin as well as from anywhere else. Following requests for further clarification, their masterpiece of logic was revealed: it was a simple pre-printed request. Too bad that the criteria for applying the censorship are those used in the 41bis regime, which, among other things, include the actual cutting-out of newspaper articles, which must be cleansed of any dangerous news.
In the days that followed, other practices that are typical of 41bis regime continued to emerge and the constant objection to them prompted a series of disciplinary reports, a popular local practice: we were given 9 in the first week and 6 in the second, for futile reasons and arbitrary, if not imaginary interpretations. These include: the obsessive use of metal-detectors every time we enter and exit our cells, from our outdoor time to our social time, not to mention the times we go for showers – we’ve counted around 12 to 16 times; the ban on CDs and CD players to listen to music (they are only allowed for the mysterious and unclear purposes of “study”): the number of books allowed in the cells which is set at 4, with the addition of the Quran or another religious text and the Italian Penal Code (when asked about substituting religious or legal books with something a little more appropriate…the GOM display a poor sense of humour); the limited items of clothing allowed in the cells, as well as the few other basic necessities and goods permitted, are kept in a small external cabinet which is accessed under the visual control of the guards who count everything with their special chart; the inability to bring pen and paper outdoors; order, control, the GOM’s count – they meticulously count everything and update their appropriate lists for all the things kept in the cells and in the storage room which are then verified during the two weekly searches.
Outdoor time is in a small space (8×10 meters) and so-called “social time” is a bad joke which, all at the same time and in the same barren room (an old visiting room), includes social activities (only one table with 4 chairs), a gym (only one exercise bike) and a place to pray. The breakdown of the imposed daily routine (7am cell doors open, 7.15am post collection, 7.30am breakfast trolley, 8.00am cell bars checked, 9-11am outdoor time, 11.30am food, 12/1pm eating together, 1-3pm social time, 3pm cell bars checked, 3.30-5.30pm outdoor time, 5.30pm food) along with almost constant direct visual control because the cell door slot must be kept open until 8pm –  other than for an hour and a half after lunch during which it can be kept slightly closed – are typical of a barracks- type prison.
Basically, if the AS2 section doesn’t appear to have actual regulations, it has in practice adopted the norms of a 41bis section with the accompanying pressures, obviously without being called as such (the only internal regulations in this cage date back to 2002, a time when AS2 sections hadn’t even been established yet), with only some changes such as, for example, being able to keep a camping cooker in the cells even after 8pm or sharing food at lunch.
As for life together inside, after a few days “blasphemy” or rather anarchist atheism and religion emerged as being quite incompatible for the muslim prisoner who asked to be transferred due to “incompatibility”. For the moment, the management have dealt with this by applying a particularly obnoxious and ridiculous ban on meeting with other prisoners which we are trying to counter, given the small size of the section and the resulting isolation. The DAP’s attempts at prison experimentation seem to be wavering considering the inability to manage the situation, as admitted by the local guards themselves.
Another interesting fact: due to their inability to enforce censorship, at least for those who didn’t yet have it, management gave orders to confiscate the apparently much-feared book “Cooking in Maximum Security”. Which begs the question what will the legal authority that holds “jurisdiction” do.
The brutal stupidity of the total institution of prison is not surprising, particularly when its obtuseness manifests itself so clearly and blatantly.
The thing we have however been able to see for ourselves is how it is always useful to shout things out loud to their faces.
From the AS2 in Aquila

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