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Top Priority Indulgence Law Passes in Italy

by de Gondi Sat Jul 29th, 2006 at 07:40:23 PM EST

Italy is a catholic nation. This evening Italy once again pranced around as a catholic republic. Certainly not the religious sentiment that so many justly harbour, but that limited and antisocial solidarity that scoundrels flaunt at the county fair or in church jamborees under the guise of humility and charity.

Mister Clemente Mastella, Prodi's so-called Minister of Justice, saw his act of clemency, or shall we say plenary indulgence, pass the Senate with 545 votes against 56 and become law. Mister Mastella immediately made it known that he dedicated this act of republican faith to the late Pope John Paul II who for reasons of his own felt compassion for those in prison.

Mister Mastella and the coalition he represents apparently feel that a little bit of one-upmanship wouldn't spoil things. Realpolitik.

Freeing over one third of the prison population is a noble jest, nearly 13000 prisoners on a total population of over 35000. Prisons in Italy are archaic and densely populated. So Mister Mastella, as his racist Druid predecessor, saw fit to propose a compassionate law, but with a touch of overkill.

Why bother justly liberating 13000 prisoners if you can't throw in a de facto amnesty for all the white collar crimes perpetrated up to May 2006? After all, with such a noble jest, Saint Silvio of Arcore and his court, need no longer worry about many future legal vexations. To hell, Mister Mastella, with the tens of thousands of citizens who have lost their savings in the Parmalat scandal. Or all of those who have stupidly paid taxes in the stead of scoundrels. Or we, the state, who must pay damages.

Mister Prodi's coalition has turned a blind eye to evidence. Had the indulgence been made for but a year discounted, nearly 12000 prisoners would have been released without a grave weight on those social structures that help the social and economic reinsertion of delinquents. By magnanimously voting a full three years of indulgence, our sovereign Parliament, in a rare expression of antisocial solidarity, has freed the half dozen criminals actually serving time for white collar crime. And seen to it that the criminal elite that never saw verticals in their life can continue as before, ever mindful that impunity is the norm in Italy.

Mister Prodi has offered a God-send to Mister Berlusconi.

That's politics.

Mister Prodi is also aware that in politics there is no such thing as gratitude.

You've paid the tiller, Mister Prodi, but as far as a large part of your constituency is concerned, you're on probation.

[CORRECTION] The actual prison population in Italy is about 61000, not 35000.

Didn't Prodi hace a majority? Why this alliance?
by Laurent GUERBY on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 04:51:22 AM EST
Amnesties, whether partial or full, or measures of leniency such as the one just passed require a two-thirds vote of both houses of parliament. Neither coalition has the necessary votes.

An amnesty is understood as cancelling criminal records for a series of crimes and freeing all prisoners who were condemned for those crimes. It's like starting over with a new slate.

A pardon is a presidential prerogative that is applied to a single person who has been definitively condemned and imprisoned.

An indulto is a measure of leniency broadly applied to most crimes that reduces sentences by a number of years. In this case a three year reduction of most sentences was voted into law.

A study conducted for the magistracy indicated that a one year reduction of sentences would have been far more effective. It would have released nearly the same number of prisoners without causing an avalanche.

Thanks to a previous law passed in 1998, the last three years of detention are passed in semi-liberty under a program of reinsertion into society. The present law immediately cuts off this passage into society for those prisoners currently involved leaving them out on a limb. Moreover, because of the 1998 law, any prisoner who has six years to serve may immediately benefit with a regime of semi-liberty.

It's improbable that the Berlusconi coalition would have accepted a one or two year reduction of sentences. That would only have touched common and petty criminality which makes up a significant part of the prison population.

In conclusion, Mastella's law has at least three scandalous provisions:

1)    A three-year reduction of all sentences which means that Berlusconi's condemned henchmen such as Cesare Previti will be turned over to social services in a matter of days;
2)    The specific inclusion of white collar crimes against the administration; corruption, fraud and bribery; and vote buying from the mafia;
3)    The application of the law to crimes committed before May 2, 2006, and not yet discovered by the magistracy.

In other words most crimes committed while Berlusconi was in power.

Now, in context, a citizen expects a ruling party or coalition to get to work on realizing their own program. Prodi has taken steps to realize his economic policies. However, he is betraying his program on justice, not only in this specific case.

His government did not pass an urgent decree to suspend Berlusconi's devastating law, the so-called Judiciary Reform Act. The law has since gone into effect. Despite well publicized promises nothing has been done yet.

Mastella has also proposed a first draft of a law that will limit freedom of the press on the false pretext that too many wiretap transcriptions end up in the press. This law was already in the making by his predecessor, the racist Roberto Castelli. Leaks to the press of the law's draft is far worse than feared, since the law also seeks to further hamper investigative judges from using legal interceptions as case evidence.

I have previously discussed the farcical pretexts behind this initiative. Let me cap it again. Last year Berlusconi's daily, il Giornale, published transcripts of conversations between Consorte, indicted in the Unipol financial scandal, and Fassino, secretary of the Left Democrats. Berlusconi immediately launched a much-publicized attack against judges and reporters in cahoots to publish transcripts. He called for a law to curtail this grave violation of the defendant's rights and privacy. His Minister of Justice immediately sent inspectors to Milan to investigate the PM's allegedly responsible for the leaks.

The Ministry investigators reported back that the transcripts published by Berlusconi's paper had never been in the hands of the Milan magistrates.

The Consorte- Fassino transcripts had been ordered to be destroyed by the Milan magistrates as being irrelevant to their investigations.

The transcripts, therefore, had been illegally copied and passed on to Berlusconi's newspaper.

As I have been reporting these past weeks, the Abu Omar case has uncovered a vast network of illegal wiretapping that involves the Italian Secret Services at the highest levels as well as several reporters who worked for both the Sismi and Berlusconi's papers.

However this does not end up on the front pages. What counts on the front pages is the plight of poor uber-citizen and wannabe king, Vittorio Emanuele III, unjustly dragged before the public for his raunchy chats.

Yes, a law to severely sanction the press and hamper judiciary investigations is top priority.

When in the hell is Mr. Prodi going to get around to working on his own program instead of giving top priority to Berlusconi's program?

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 08:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for those details.

No idea why Prodi passed this law given the price.

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 03:36:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many and myself consider this "indulgence" a farce. Now that it's signed into law without any serious parliamentary debate and without consulting magistrates and penitentiary authorities, it's time for a countdown.

How many months will pass before the prison population returns to its present level of 61.000?  According to authorities this law will free up to one third of the prison population with no social or economic support to meet them once on the streets. A black plastic bag with personal effects and you're free.

The last indulto was in 1990. It took eight months to return to the same prison population. Then, as now, the white collar criminals got a free ride.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 03:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Laws are passed by Pareliament, and more shocking than Prodi1s bnacking is how wide the support was among Italy's many small parties. In particular, I'm surprised in particular that communists, Greens and, unless de Gondi just didn't list it, Emma Bonino's group votes yes, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 04:08:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Emma Bonino is an historical leader of the Radical Party. It's position has always been in favor of prisoners and their plight. It has often presented prisoners for election.

The Radical Party has always been a wild card in the Italian political panorama. It made major contributions to society through its battles on divorce, abortion, conscientious objection. The party has however jumped left to right to left so often that it has long since stopped making sense. Which is fine with me.

At present the Radical Party is having it out with their ally, "the Rose in the Fist Socialist Party," which in turn represents the left splinter faction of the old socialist party. During the previous legislature the Socialist Party was one of the many allies of the rightwing coalition, eloquently demonstrating that Craxi's orphans are rightwing.

Both the Radical Party and the Rose-in-the-fist-etc Party are for amnesties, the latter for self-interest in remembrance of Craxi.

I agree that the penitentiary system in Italy needs a major overhaul. Amnesty International has described the situation in Italian prisons as tantamount to torture. I do not consider this PR flim-flam law as in any helping to resolve the situation. Had there been an actual indulto it would have been for one year without all the special trimmings that allow the powerful to once again beat the rap and royally fuck over the citizenry.

As for Mastella, he has declared that his law is a defeat for the "giustizialisti," a vulgar self-serving urban legend invented as an insult to those of us who are sick and damned tired of watching VIP criminals rape the state with impunity. His remarks are contemptuous and his religious sentiment smacks of snake oil.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 06:34:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I seemed to recall Bonino making a stand against corruption in the Santer European Commission, but now can't find anything -- in fact I find an ominous sentence in Wikipedia that she was implicated too... On the other hand, she was a good Commissioner, her work including an accord on war crimes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jul 31st, 2006 at 07:10:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She's great when she works abroad. I don't know of any implication of her in corruption. It would be entirely out of character.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Aug 1st, 2006 at 03:47:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another different national approach to penal policy, after the recent diaries touching on Norwegian and American ideas.

There may be something to be said for a one-off amnesty, but if the expectation is that corruption can continue as before and will always be forgiven then that will not help the rule of law.

by Gary J on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 07:43:34 AM EST
What were the arguments for the yes vote of governing parties? Who voted against?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 08:00:14 AM EST
Most arguments took the high road of morality. Overcrowded prisons, tantamount to torture. An act of civilization. Clemency.

The majority coalition party of Antonio di Pietro, the Italian Party of Values, voted against the law, along with members of the post-fascist Allianza Nazionale and the Lega Nord.

Di Pietro "auto-suspended" himself as Minister and took to the street organizing demonstrations against the law. Although the vote was secret, Di Pietro published the names of all deputies who voted the law on his site.

When the vote passed the Senate, di Pietro declared he respects the institutions even when they take decisions with which he does not agree.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 08:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

(I like the idea of a noble jest!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 12:16:08 PM EST
Am I the only one who smells fish...

it looks like it is all africking joke...gee

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jul 30th, 2006 at 05:08:03 PM EST

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