But life sentences which really foresee life detention are not only cruel, they are never ending pain applied to an individual by State Law.
A form of torture which affects the soul, heart, possibility of giving and receiving love and the humanity of jailed one and jailers.
In the middle ages you could be put on the stake, have your eyes taken out and your hands chopped off, but then, at a certain point, pity would intervene. You would be killed. You would die and the punishment itself was also over. Pain was not ‘for ever‘, not diluted over a whole lifespan. Life imprisonment lasting a whole life is much worse than the application of the biblical ’eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ rule.
Life detention also goes beyond the predicament ‘a life taken for a life stolen’.
Death steals your life. A life sentence steals away your self.
You become a living ghost. You possess no future whatsoever. No hope.
The biggest evil one man can do to another is to apply life imprisonment of the kind which really lasts a life.
Italy is the only European country -and maybe the only country in the world- where this happens.
How can it be happening in a country which considers itself democratic, law abiding and inspired by catholic principles?
One would think that a State that declares it is better than ‘The Mafia’ and its ’criminals’ could not submit individuals to penalties which are never ending tortures.
But still today, 20 years from when they were introduced, ‘emergency laws‘ are being used to annihilate lives.
And the changes, the transformation individuals have undergone in 20 to 30 years of detention are not considered at all.
We would like to tell relatives of our victims that at the beginning, most of us were completely incapable of confronting their pain.
But time has shown us what victims feel. It has made us, to some degree, become victims too.
Now we would like you to understand. We would like you to make an effort and see how many of us are now living through life imprisonment because then they acted according to culture, mentality and ignorance. Also, some of us had the perception they were at war. We all know that when you are at war, either you kill or you get killed. This was our conviction.
Many claim they have forgiven us. But we live this forgiveness filtered through a State vendetta called life detention.
We would like to tell people who have forgiven -and are better individuals than we are- that application of life sentences lasting a lifetime does not even allow us to accept the responsibility -and the pain- which their pardon gives.
If justice has become a common goal, then it is time to consider the possibility of giving us the chance to show what we have become. To show we no longer are the same people we were.
Italian lifers have decided they will no longer undergo torture in silence and will protest by means of a hunger strike and other manifestations both inside and outside prisons. The hunger strike will start on the first of December 2008 and will be centred on respect of Article 27 of the Italian Constitution which declares that ‘penalties must lead to rehabilitation’. Something which life detention certainly does not do. Please recognise we are alive, we are changing from day to day, like any other human being, for if we have been ‘monsters’ many of us are now just men with no hope at all.
Please visit www.informacarcere.it for more info -an international section is under construction, but you can already write in Italian, English, Spanish and French. The organisation’s voluntary staff will post it on translated to lifers who will then post back answers to any enquiry .
The website offers the possibility of meeting the men behind the sentences and the bars, by presenting letters, diaries, poems and many other writings by Italian lifers and other prisoners.
Document produced by the ‘Collective of Struggling Lifers of Maiano High Security Prison’ - Spoleto, Italy. August 2008
Note by the translator: In Italy it is a well known fact that many of these people were arrested under 20 years of age, have been subject to ‘emergency laws’ for decades and have been totally end permanently uprooted from their family, friends and homeland by detention in high security prisons in North and central Italy, far from the South, Sicily and Sardinia, where most of them originally come from.
Also, it is a fact that they are undergoing –and have been subject to - political use as ‘cards’ in the electoral game throughout the country, especially under Premier Berlusconi, as if, by punishing them more, one could render Italy a safer and more democratic State.