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Who we are

Antigone is a cultural and political NGO that was born in the late eighties. Our name comes from the academic review «Antigone», founded by (among others) Massimo Cacciari, Stefano Rodotà and Rossana Rossanda, and our motto “per i diritti e le garanzie nel sistema penale” (for rights and guarantees in the penal system) summons up our work. Our supporters are magistrates, workers in the penitentiary system, lawyers, researchers, parliamentarians, teachers and ordinary citizens interested in criminal justice.
We carry out many activities including raising awareness on public opinion and facilitate debates on the Italian penal system through campaigns, education, media, publications, and the academic review “Antigone”. We conduct many studies and researches on penal and penitentiary issues, and cooperate in writing draft laws. In 1998, when Antigone received from the Ministry of Justice a special authorization to visit prisons with the same power that the law gives to parliamentarians, we established an Observatory on Italian prisons involving around 50 people. Since then every year our Observatory publishes a Report on Italian penitentiary system. We also created a prison Ombudsman which collects complaints from prisons and police stations and mediates with the Administration in order to solve specific problems. Furthermore, our lawyers and physicians operate in some Italian prisons giving suggestions and monitoring life conditions. We carry out investigations about ill-treatments and Antigone is sometimes formally involved in the related trials. Moreover we created "Jailhouse Rock", a weekly radio broadcast on music and prisons authors. We also lead a European Prison Observatory involving nine European Countries and funded by the European Union.


History highlights

In 1992 we launched our first campaign “Mai dire mai” (Never say never) in order to abolish life sentences.
In 1996 we promoted and carried out different appeals against the extradition of Pietro Venezia to the US. The appeal went to the Constitutional Court, which ruled the absolute prohibition to extradite prisoners who could be subjected to the death penalty in the receiving country.
In the late 90s we were the first Italian NGO to ask for the establishment of a national Ombudsman in order to protect the human rights of detainees. Since then we have promoted many normative texts aiming to its creation.
We are a national reference for the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), and we are always in contact with other partner organizations in other European countries such as Amnesty International (English branch), the Association pour la prévention de la torture from Geneva, and the Asociación contra la cultura punitiva y de exclusión social from Barcelona.
Through the years we brought civil action in many criminal proceedings: in 2000 we took part to the trial on Giuliano Costantini’s death while he was detained in the prison Marino del Tronto; in September 2011 we participated to the trial involving five penitentiary agents accused of ill-treatment towards two detainees in the prison in Asti; in July 2012 we were part of a trial involving four agents accused of ill-treatment towards five detainees in the prison of Florence Solliciano (the trial ended with the conviction of three of the agents to sentences between eight months and one year-six months and the reparations to the victims).
Since July 2009, when the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for “prison overcrowding”, we have filed 170 complaints to the ECtHR and have overseen 230 other filed complaints directly from the detainees.
In 2010 we started “Jailhouse rock. Suoni, suonatori e suonati dal mondo delle prigioni” (Sounds, players and played from the prison world) a radio program broadcasted once per week initially by Radio Popolare and now by Radio Articolo 1. The program tells stories of music and prisons, and includes “Giornale Radio dal Carcere” (Radio news from prison), the first radio news program entirely made by detainees from two prisons: Rebibbia Nuovo Complesso (Rome) and Bollate (Milan). Thanks to “Jailhouse Rock” the band from Bollate was able to participate to festivals and concerts out of jail.
In 2010 we requested formal proceedings for a State investigation over the death of Carmelo Castro, which happened the 28th March 2009 in the prison Catania Piazza Lanza. The Catania Attorney Office started the investigation in January 2011.
In 2011 we cooperated with other partners to write a draft law against prison overcrowding. The draft law was filed to the Senate and is identified with number 2915.
In 2011 we requested clarification from the Como Attorney Office on some courses that had been set up in the previous year thanks to a project of Regione Lombardia in the prison of Como.
In 2012 we promoted “Chiamiamola tortura” (Let’s call it torture), a campaign to include the crime of torture in the Italian criminal law.
In 2012 we received along with the journalistic service “Next New Media” the authorization to enter 25 prisons representing the Italian situation in order to realize the first webdoc on the Italian penitentiary system: “Inside carceri” (Inside prisons). The web documentary is composed by 32 videos, 2 audio galleries, 3 infographics, 117 photos, and 20 textual contents, and it is possible to freely access it from www.insidecarceri.com. In 2013 “Inside carceri” won the prize at the Perugia Festival dell’Immaginario for the best plot, screenplay and original story.
In 2013 we cooperated to create the radio reportage in 5 episodes “Senza via d’uscita, viaggio negli OPG” (No way out, trip in the judiciary psychiatric hospitals), which was broadcasted by Radio 3 during the program “Tre Soldi”.
In 2013 we coordinated at the national level a campaign for three draft laws to be proposed by citizens to the Parliament “Tre leggi per la giustizia e i diritti: tortura, carcere e droga” (Three laws for justice and rights: torture, prisons and drugs). Twenty other organizations cooperated in this campaign, among others: Arci, Cgil, Cgil-Fp, Unione delle Camere penali italiane, Cir, Cnca, Gruppo Abele, Libertà e Giustizia and Forum droghe. The draft laws were filed to the Parliament and are identified with numbers 1799, 1800, 1801 and 1802.
Since 2014 we are part of the European liberties platform (ELP) (liberties.eu), coordinated by the Open Society Foundations.
In 2013 we formally requested the Siracusa Attorney Office to investigate the death of Alfredo Liotta, which happened on the 26th July 2012 in a prison cell in Siracusa.
In 2013 we carried out an investigation in which we found that the penitentiary Administration Department declared 10.000 places in prisons, that in reality don’t exist. Following our report to the authorities, in October 2013 the Minister of Justice confirmed our findings during a conference at Università di Roma Tre.
In 2014 we gave a new push to our campaign “Chiamiamola tortura” (Let’s call it torture) to include the crime of torture in the Italian criminal law.

Our headquarters are in Rome, but we have an office in each Italian region. We also work in a network of European partners. Our work is made possible through our Observatory on the Prison Conditions in Italy, the European Prison Observatory and our Prison Ombudsman Office.

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