The Cagliari-Uta jail | Photo: ANSA
The Cagliari-Uta jail | Photo: ANSA

On the Italian island of Sardinia, one in four prisoners is a foreign national. A local socialist association has called for cultural mediators in prisons "to ensure that these people's stay in jail is useful for their social recovery."

In Sardinia, 2,011 people are currently being held in ten prisons on the island -- 426 of whom are not Italian.

This is according to Maria Grazia Caligaris from the association Socialismo Diritti Riforme (Socialism Rights Reform), which analyzed justice ministry figures (as of May 31, 2022).

Call for cultural mediators

The left-leaning organization said that, given the current situation, "the presence of cultural mediators is an indispensable tool to ensure that the stay of these people in jail serves their social recovery." They said that "the knowledge of language but also cultural baggage and habits" would be essential to help prison staff interact with detainees and to properly rehabilitate non-Italian prisoners.

The number of foreigners among the prison population varies widely across different facilities on Sardinia -- in three facilities, they make up at least half of all prisoners (66% in Mamone-Onanì, 64.5% in Arenas-Arbus, and 50% in Isili), while their number is very small in other prisons.

Many inmates from North Africa, Nigeria

Just over 40% of foreign prisoners in Sardinia hail from North African countries -- mostly Morocco, according to Caligaris. 105 prisoners were from Morocco, 41 from Tunisia, 28 from Algeria and 12 from Egypt.

Other larger national groups in Sardinian prisons reportedly include Nigerians (51 detainees or 11.9% of foreign prisoners), Romanians (34, 7.9%), and Albanians (25, 6.9%).

Caligalis also reported that there were detainees from Gambia (17), Senegal (16), Bosnia Herzegovina (8), Syria (7), Ukraine (7), Ghana (5), India (5), Poland (4), Pakistan (4) and China (4).

Caligaris decried that there was reportedly overcrowding in some of the prisons, while others were not yet at capacity. "It was once more found... that the Oristano-Massama detention facilities, with 263 detainees for 259 posts, and Tempio-Nuchis, with 176 for 170, exceed the regulations, while penal colonies are semi-empty," she said.


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