An Italian mafia boss in solitary confinement has won a legal fight to be allowed to listen to music in his cell.
Domenico Strisciuglio, 48, had been sentenced to more than 20 years under Italy’s strict prison regime for murder and other mafia-related crimes. The rules, known as Article 41-bis of the Prison Administration Act, allow the authorities to suspend certain prison regulations, with the aim of cutting inmates off completely from their criminal associates.
After prison authorities denied Strisciuglio’s request to buy a CD player, his lawyer turned to the courts to allow him to expand his entertainment options beyond watching TV in his cell.
On Thursday, judges in Sassari, the Sardinian town where Strisciuglio has been imprisoned since 1999, agreed that listening to music was part of the man’s constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Allowing him to have a CD player is in line with “his primary rights to exercise a cultural activity” which cannot be limited by any form of detention – including Article 41-bis – the judges said in a ruling quoted by La Repubblica.
According to the magistrates, “denying this ordinary habit would result in a useless restriction of the rights of the detainees”.
They also noted that the regular TV channels Strisciuglio has access to do not offer programmes “able to satisfy someone who has an interest in listening to music”.
Strisciuglio, who was part of a mafia family from Bari in south-eastern Italy, won another case in 2019, when judges said he could be allowed to watch TV after midnight.
Italy toughened jail conditions for mobsters and terrorists in the wake of bloody feuds in the 1980s and 1990s, which culminated in the murder of two top Sicilian anti-mafia magistrates, Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, in 1992. Article 41-bis banned the use of telephones, any association or correspondence with other prisoners, or meetings with third parties.
In October 2019, the Strasbourg-based European court of human rights (ECHR) ruled that Italy’s tough prison regimes for mafia bosses violated their human rights, citing life terms that subjected prisoners to inhuman and degrading treatment.
The ECHR urged Italy to revise its laws mandating life sentences for very serious crimes and ruling out sentence reductions unless inmates turn informant.
The ruling had triggered an outcry among investigators, who claim it does not take into account the context and history of the mafia in Italy. According to Italian ministers, prosecutors and police chiefs the ECHR judgment could hinder the fight against organised crime across the continent.