The prison (policies) that make(s) a difference


The Cooperative Lazzarelle is a social enterprise that, using the approach of diversity management engages as members and workers women in prisons for entrepreneurial activities. Now it is involved in coffee production within the female prison of Pozzuoli (NA - IT). The female prison of Pozzuoli is the largest prison of southern Italy. In this prison at the moment there are 200 women.

The cooperative was born in 2010, by the belief that prisons should not be a dark and forgotten place. The Cooperative Lazzarelle promotes the creation of innovative approach to entrepreneurship and self-employment of women, to respond to two different types of problems. First, groped to solve the serious problem of unemployed and underemployed women; secondly, encouraging the raising of social enterprises able to offer and deliver innovative services to the territory.

In Italy, the female prison population has increased dramatically over the last ten years. The increase primarily due to the increased use of imprisonment to punish offences that were previously punished by non-custodial sentences. This is particularly the case in relation to drug offences and non-violent theft. Another element of the increasing crime rate is the severe economic crisis that Italy and in particular women, weak labor market are going through. Women’s offending and imprisonment is closely related to women poverty. Women on remand constitute a large percentage of the women prison population in many countries. Women offenders typically come from economically and socially disadvantaged segments of society. Typically, they are young, unemployed, have low levels of education and have dependent children. Major crimes committed by these women are: to push drugs and robbery. Many of them have stories of alcohol and substance abuse. These women often have primary responsibility for the family, when a woman is in to prison the consequences for her family are often very significant. The family visits are very important. Where visits are possible, often the conditions make them traumatic for all parties: long waits in inhospitable waiting areas, restrictions on the length of visit and number of people permitted, and intrusive searches, even of children. Maintaining contact with children is also particularly difficult for women from extra communitarian countries, because relatives have no permit status and can not take children. The relationship with their children is very difficult from prison. Maintaining contact with children through phone calls and letters is likely to be particularly problematic. Restrictions about calls duration makes difficult to speak with children. A mother with several children may find hard to share out ‘phone-time’ between them so that they all get an equal chance to speak with her. Children may be too young to read or write letters. In Italy the prison should have a reformative, restorative and rehabilitative function. The main way that this is done is by giving prisoners the opportunity to be educated, gain skills for future employment. But often this does not happen because the prison has not real training programs. Training is left to external agency, and often there is lack of money in order to fund training.

In Italy the female prisons are 7. First on January 2011 women prisoners in Italy was about 2.526 (department of justice) Prison systems and prison regimes are almost invariably designed for the majority male prison population – from the architecture of prisons, to security procedures, to facilities for healthcare, family contact, work and training. Female prisons are an adaptation of male prisons. As consequence, prisons tend not to accomplish with needs of female prisoners, and women in prison are affected by imprisonment in a particularly harsh way.

Immacolata Carpiniello