Commentary. Toto Riina is still capable of crime. There is a humanitarian to life imprisonment that also keeps the public safe.

The return of Riina to Corleone would be devastating

Could Totó Riina leave prison and go back to Corleone under house arrest or for deferment of punishment? It would be a sad conclusion of the commemorations for the 25th anniversary of the Capaci and Via D’Amelio massacres and the decades of dramas that preceded them.

Even for those who are opposed to life imprisonment, even at the objection imposed by 41bis, even to Riina’s case, it would be less than honest to reason abstractly and invoke “freedom for everyone,” based on those objections.

The problem for the Supreme Court rested on Article 27 of the Constitution: “Punishment cannot consist of treatment contrary to human dignity and must aim at rehabilitating the offender.” And that’s exactly the court’s view as it pertains to Riina’s health status: It would not be compatible with the prison detention regime. The Court of Bologna held the opposite opinion and, hence, the Supreme Court decision on the advisability of granting house arrest or deferment of sentence. The high court noted the lower tribunal’s lack of reasoning on this alleged contradiction. It is quite likely that with now a stronger justification, the lower court will agree with the Supreme Court, and so there will be the usual much ado about nothing.

The symbolic message would be devastating to public opinion, which is now quite pacified after the capture of almost all the heads of the various mafia groups who are being systematically driven out of their hiding holes and sent to prison. The sacred popular “wrath” would have to give in to a release aligned with the Constitution, although it is not said that the symbols would have such a low value in the fight against criminal organizations.

The point, however, is whether there is a humanitarian alternative to life imprisonment — release with house arrest, keeping in mind the need to protect the safety of other citizens, as well as the dignity of the citizen Toto Riina. Riina is not being rehabilitated in prison, and, indeed, even if subjected to the rigors of Article 41bis, he has persevered in his criminal delusions, as documented by eavesdropping leaked on public TV.

Bringing him back to his family in Corleone would strengthen the command of the Mafia group to which it seems he has never given up. He has threatened havoc from prison; imagine what he would do from his comfortable home where he had already taught his “values” to the family, as one of his offspring declared months ago in an unhappy transmission on the Porta a porta talk show.

The only real alternative to prison would be to have him admitted to a proper off-prison health facility. This would balance the opposite extremes between those who would like him to die in prison and those who want him back in Corleone.

Giuseppe Di Lello is a former prosecutor who worked on the anti-mafia team in Sicily. His colleague, Giovanni Falcone, was murdered by Toto Riina.

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