There was a head-on clash on Thursday between the Lega and the PD on the proposed bill on the regime of imprisoned mothers.
An attempt to improve the current situation had been made during the last legislature; the text had passed the Senate, but the process was halted by the government crisis. Now, the Dems had presented a new bill (with Deborah Serracchiani as the first signatory), but on Wednesday the Justice Committee of the Chamber approved two amendments by Carolina Varchi (FdI), coming from the government, which twisted the bill’s text, making it even more restrictive than the current law.
In particular, mothers would have to serve their sentences in prison – and not in Institutions for Lighter Custody (ICAM) – if they are repeat offenders. In addition, the rule that provides for the postponement of the sentence for women who are pregnant or have children less than a year old would also be eliminated.
The surprise amendment had the fingerprints of Meloni’s party all over it, but the Lega was all too eager to be the face of the fight on Thursday.
“They hate the poor, migrants, women. And now even children. It’s not just the indifference before the white coffins from Cutro; it’s not just the virulence against the children of same-sex couples; now they’re even turning on the children in prison with their mothers,” said Marco Furfaro, the PD group leader in the Social Affairs Committee of the Chamber. To block the maneuver, the PD withdrew the signatures from its own bill so that it was no longer on the agenda.
“The government is going from ‘law and order’ to ‘inhumanity and incivility’,” said Alessandro Zan. “Our proposal did not offer amnesty or condone anything. It provided that the first years of a child’s life should be spent in protected facilities, not in prison, but still supervised and controlled,” said Serracchiani.
While Justice Minister Nordio kept his silence, the Lega undersecretary, Andrea Ostellari, took center stage: “The PD is still choosing to be on the wrong side and is confirming that it wants impunity for pregnant thieves and pickpockets. No problem: the Lega will present a new bill.” The new text was presented on Thursday afternoon by Jacopo Morrone and Ingrid Bisa; on the issue of mothers with children under a year old, it says: “If there is a concrete danger of the commission of further crimes, the supervisory magistrate may order that the execution of the sentence not be deferred, or the deferment revoked. If the person is a repeat offender or a habitual or professional criminal, the execution of the sentence shall take place in an institution for lighter custody.” Salvini immediately cranked up the propaganda: “The PD is setting Roma pickpockets free. Shame on them. The Lega had passed the provision in the Justice Committee, and will immediately resubmit the text: those who are caught stealing will serve their sentences.” The Lega has been riding a wave of social animosity against the Roma for weeks, exploiting videos published online and on TV taken from the Rome and Milan subways – which were referenced explicitly in the motivation for the Lega’s new bill on Thursday (along with the film Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow with Sophia Loren, set in Naples).
Based on government data, as of February 28, there were 21 mothers currently in custody, with 24 children; the most in the same place were at the ICAM in Lauro, in the province of Avellino: 9 mothers with 11 children, including 6 foreign women with 9 children. As of Thursday, the latest numbers on imprisoned mothers was 23 women with 26 children.
A report by Antigone reads: “The trend regarding the presence of children in prison has continued to fluctuate over the last 30 years, going up (to over 80) and down to 17 in January. One can see an overrepresentation of foreigners, who probably have greater difficulties in accessing alternative sentencing.” There are three kinds of detention facilities where children are kept in prison with their mothers: the ICAMs; special areas set up inside ordinary prisons; and “places inside prisons not designed for children, but equipped as well as could be managed.” Law 62/2011 provides for supervised family homes for female inmates without a home deemed adequate by the judiciary, but to date there are only two: one in Milan and one in Rome.
The debate in the Chamber was not only about the substance of the bill, but also about the government’s modus operandi: “The relationship of trust has been broken,” accused Zan. “They have used our bill as a vehicle to do their dirty work. There are two problems with the approved amendments. Repeat offenders will automatically go to jail. Until now we sent them to group homes, except in serious cases. The second is worse: the Penal Code provides a deferred sentence for women who are pregnant or have children under one year old. They’re taking that away as well.”
In turn, FdI attacked the PD: “They instrumentalize children, covering up a free-for-all.” What about Forza Italia, though? Serracchiani had a revelation: “FI had presented amendments that protected rights even more than ours. They had to be called to Palazzo Chigi to be convinced to withdraw them.”
From the opposite front, that of the Greens and Italian Left, Devis Dori said: “The majority has sabotaged the goal of an absolutely civilized norm.” From Azione, Carlo Calenda said: “The behavior of the majority is immoral. It was, and remains, a fight for a just cause, from which one cannot retreat.” From the M5S, Valentina D’Orso said the events were “a dangerous precedent that undermines the relationship of trust between majority and opposition, one that we cannot accept.”