Case Cospito, what is the 41bis and who has the power to revoke it
Solitude. Correspondence censorship. Two hours of air a day. No privacy and suffocating controls. The 41bis, or the hard prison, is also known as “the tomb of the living”. A regime that applies to those convicted of serious crimes, such as the mafia or terrorism, or in situations of particular emergency or revolt, which serves to break the ties of prisoners with the outside world. Among those sentenced to hard prison the boss Matthew Messina Money and the militant anarchist Alfred Cospito. The latter is detained in Sassari, on hunger strike for over 100 days to protest against the regime set up against him for 4 years. But let’s see in detail how the 41 bis was born, what it provides for and who has the power to revoke it.
The demons of 41 bis, mafiosi and more
How was born the 41 bis
The institution of the hard prison was born in 1986 with the approval of the law on the penitentiary system number 354/1975, also known as the Gozzini law, from the name of the speaker. The legislation introduced with article 41-bis a special regime of detention «in exceptional cases of revolt or others serious emergency situations» with which the Ministry of Justice «has the power to suspend the application of the normal rules for the treatment of prisoners and internees in the institute concerned or in part of it. The suspension must be motivated by the need to restore order and security and has the duration strictly necessary to achieve the aforementioned purpose”. After the Capaci massacre in 1992, the 41bis regime was extended to prisoners belonging to criminal organizations mobsters.
What does it predict
Prisoners subjected to the 41-bis regime – as provided for by the legislation updated by law no. 94 of 2009 – are locked up in institutions dedicated to them or in sections separated from the rest of the structure. The cell is single and contains a bed, a table and a chair nailed to the floor. Nothing else. Access to common areas is not granted, the so-called “hour of air” is limited to two hours per dayinterviews are allowed once a month for one hour and only with family members, separated by a glass partition.
There are severe restrictions also for the money that prisoners can have on their account in prison: this may mean no books or newspapers. It is not possible for the 41bis prisoner to have privacy: he is monitored by the Prison Police 24 hours a day and contacts with prison guards are reduced to the bare minimum.
Even if in hard prison, the inmate has the right to receive the medical care which he needs inside the prison and, when it is indispensable, he can also be taken to the hospital.
Under what circumstances does it apply
The 41-bis regime applies, primarily, in exceptional cases of revolt in prison or other serious circumstances of emergency. The second case study is the one examined by the second paragraph of article 41-bis, i.e. the one which provides for the revocation of the ordinary treatment rules in the event that serious causes of order and of public security and the recipient has committed certain types of crime.
Who has the power to revoke it
As one expert explains, the matter is complex. The request for hard prison «is made by the power of attorney competent” and the power to revoke it “can start from the power of attorney” or even from Minister of Justice, which can totally or partially suspend the application of the ordinary treatment rules, against a single prisoner. Taking up a speech by the magistrate Livio Pepino, «the minister of justice, therefore, could before the law n. 94 of 2009 and can today revoke, due to supervening events, the application decree of 41 bis against any prisoner and, also, Alfredo Cospito. He can do it or not, but by his exclusive choice and not by legal constraints ».