Italian authorities were struggling on Monday to restore order in prisons up and down the country after coronavirus-related riots led to six inmates’ deaths and dozens of escapes.
Inmates are concerned about the risk of being infected in prison and are angry at a recent government decision to restrict visits as part of a national strategy to contain the outbreak.
The six dead are inmates from Modena prison, where protests broke out on Sunday. Modena is one of the provinces of northern Italy which is under lockdown, according to DPA. Four other prisoners are in a critical state in hospital, while three prison guards and seven prison infirmary staff suffered mild injuries.
Another serious situation was reported in Foggia, in the south-east, where dozens of prisoners managed to escape, according to prison police union representatives. “The situation is catastrophic, in Foggia 50 inmates have escaped,” Aldo Di Giacomo of the Spp trade union told the Adnkronos news agency.
In Melfi, in the southern Basilicata region, four guards were taken hostage by prisoners, while in Rieti, north of Rome, “the entire institution” has been taken over by prisoners, the ministry said.
Rioting first broke out at a prison in Salerno on Saturday and has since spread nationwide.
In central Milan, inmates climbed onto the roof of San Vittore prison and held up banners calling for “freedom” and “amnesty” while riot police surrounded the building.
Two prison guards were briefly taken hostage by inmates in Pavia, near Milan, on Sunday, and other violent protests were reported, including in Rome, Naples, Turin and Prato, with some leading to fires.
The riots were triggered by a government decree on the weekend that suspended visits except for in “exceptional cases.” It made provisions for prisoners to be allowed to talk to friends and relatives via phone or video, but also called for day release permits to be restricted.