When children are sentenced to prison with their mothers

A recent bill that has just been approved by Parliament seeks to give children of mothers in prison the opportunity to live in conditions that better respect their right to a free and peaceful childhood

On mail of June 15 last year, we learn that the House has recently approved a bill addressed to avoidto children up to six years of age of mothers who have been convicted or are awaiting sentencing live with them in a prison.

“You can not sentence a child to a life as a hermit”

The first signatory is the deputy Giancarlo Siani, doctor and brother of Giancarlo, a Neapolitan journalist killed by the Camorra in 1985. In an article published inExpressed he states that:

(…) No child can be condemned to a life as a hermit at a crucial time for its growth, because the environment in which it lives in the first years also affects its life as an adult.


Soft custody institutions

The previous law from 2011 provided the solution of sheltered housing as an alternative to ICAMs: the institutions with reduced custody for this limited typology of inmates, places with welcoming environments that should be as reminiscent as possible of a prison.

Staff without uniform and weapons, stained walls

Yes the walls are stained, the security personnel are usually without uniformand weapons, educators are present to assist mothers in caring for their children. But the law, which was still in force, bound the construction of the family houses to the absence of burdens for the state, as it was the local authorities who had to take care of it.


The listed family homes

For this reason only two have been opened: in Milan and Rome in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Roms, which is able to accommodate six incarcerated mothers located on Eur, and called The house Leda in honor of Leda Colombini, who passed away in 2011, president of the association “A Roma Insieme” founded in 1991 with the main purpose of not seeing “No more children in prison”.

In May 2022, 18 children lived in prison with their mothers

That from Milan it is in the Stadera district and welcomes five inmates with their offspring from Icam di San Vittore. In May 2022according to data from the Ministry of Justice. there were 18 children living in prison with their mothers: 9 in ICAM in Lauro (AV), the only autonomous ICAM released from prison institutions, 2 in Rome in Rebibbia prison, 2 in ICAM in San Vittore, 3 in Turin, 1 in Genoa and 1 in Venice in Giudecca prison.

At the age of 6, the child must be released from prison

Small numbers, clearly declining compared to before, but not insignificant for this. At the age of six, the child must leave prison, and left at the behest of the juvenile judge to relatives, a foster family, or an institution.

The listed family homes are real apartments

The protected family homes, unlike Icam, are real apartments. The recently approved bill removes the restriction on the absence of government spending on the construction of sheltered family housing, and allows, but does not oblige, to fund them.

The fund to accommodate mothers detained with children in sheltered family homes

In this regard, already in the Budget Law for 2020, thanks to an amendment proposed by Paolo Siani himself, a fund has been set up approximately EUR 1.5 million for each of the years 2021, 2022 and 2023, aims to contribute to the reception of parents imprisoned with children in sheltered family homes, but at present no region has used this funding.


The new bill

The new bill it also removes the 2011 paragraph on the existence of prudential needs of exceptional importance, such as entails the need to host these mothers in an ICAM rather than in a sheltered family home.

This choice, in the new legislation, is the exclusive power of the judge, who can “establish this measure in case of particularly important precautionary measures”.

Everything therefore gives hope that thanks to the regulatory process that started with Law 354 of 1975, continued with Law 663 of 1986 (Gozzini Law), Law 40 of 2001, Law 62 of 2011 (which had raised the age from 3 to 6 years) where children can live in prison with their mothers), in a relatively short time, the hope of never seeing children within the walls again, though colored, by a prison institution and not so destined to pay for the sins of adults.


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