1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Administration of Justice

(Part 22)


Administration of Justice

Though, in the opinion of the most competent judges, Italy is still in the main free from that curse of civilized countries, a distinctly differentiated criminal class, there is hardly a country of Europe which presents from year to year such appalling tables of criminality. Leaving out of view the question of brigandage—which is of moment only in the southern provinces, where through long inertness the arm of the law had become comparatively powerless—crimes of violence are exceptionally frequent, and (to take the statistics of 1875) the number of persons undergoing punishment in a given year is in the ratio of 175'51 for every 100,000 inhabitants. In proportion to population there are four times as many persons condemned to death or penal servitude for life as in France, twice as many to hard labour, five times as many to solitary confinement. And it cannot be said that that part of the administration whose duty it is to deal with this multitude of law-breakers is in a state of competent efficiency. Trial by jury is in force, but there seems good reason to question the fitness of a large part of the population for the exercise of the functions thus devolved upon them. " Not guilty with extenuating circumstances " is an amusing but suggestive verdict. Though according to the law of 1865 there is only to be one court of cassation in the country, as an actual fact there are five, as follows (Table XXXIX.) :—

== TABLE ==

The Roman court of cassation was instituted only in 1876,—the Roman court of appeal having previously been dependent on Florence, and those of Aneona-Macerata, Bologna, and Cagliari on Turin. The number of courts of assize varies from year to 37ear, according to royal decree: in 1874 there were 86, in 1876, 92. Of civil and correctional tribunals there are 162, and of "praetors " 1813. The praetors are both civil and criminal judges ; in the civil de-partment they can decide in all cases involving less than 1500 lire. It is considered part of their duty to endeavour to bring litigants to terms without proceeding to formal trial; and, that this desirable object may be more frequently secured, a special class of judges or arbitrators, known as conciliatori—of ancient establishment in the Neapolitan provinces—was rendered common to all Italy at the legislative unification of 1865. At the request of parties in dispute, they may deal with cases involving any amount, but their decisions are final only as far as 30 lire, and they have no control—any more than the praetors—of questions affecting the taxes. The value of this class of functionaries is evident from the fact that in 1875, for example, about 25 per cent, of the cases presented to the conciliators or to the praetors exercising conciliatorial functions were settled by compromise, and out of 769,533 cases 580,066 received definitive sentence.

The "establishments of detention" are of three kinds:—those of preventive detention, or judiciary prisons ; those of penal detention, for culprits of full age; and those of correction, or reformatories for prisoners under age. The following table (XL.) gives details for 1879 (the third column of figures giving the number of prisoners for whom there is sleeping accommodation):—

== TABLE ==

Of the total number of establishments 51 belong to the Lombardo-Venetian provinces, 42 to the ancient continental provinces, 31 to the Tuscan provinces, 15 to the Parma and Modena provinces, 55 to the Eoman, 80 to the Neapolitan, and 40 to the Sicilian and Sardinian. The Government report indicates that of the convict establishments (central and secondary) 12 were neither healthy nor secure ; the same was the case with several of the houses of correction ; and no fewer than 87 of the prisons are condemned for the latter defect and 51 for the former.

In the convict establishments there were 17,576 prisoners in December 1879. The mean for 1870 was 13,663, and every succeeding year has seen an increase. In the ten years from 1870 to 1879 the total admissions have been 31,470. During that period 4846 received remission of their sentence, and 5176 died in prison. The following are the convict establishments, arranged in order of importance—Porto Longone, Civita Vecchia, Nisida, Palermo, Ancona, Cagliari, Orbetello, Genoa, Procida, Brindisi, Finalborgo, Gaeta, Pozzuoli, S. Stefano (Naples), Alghero, Castiadas, Favignana, Palermo, Pesaro, Piombino, Porto Ferraio, Portici, Ponza, Porto d'Anzio, Terracina, and Trapani. The establishment at Varignano was made a lazaretto in 1871. See Stat, decennale delle carceri (1870-79), Civita Vecchia, 1880.

According to the confession of Italian investigators, the state of the judiciary prisons is often deplorable in the extreme. '' When I see," writes Beltrami Scalia, "the enormous number of 44,415 individuals existing in the judiciary prisons in the beginning of 1875 (and the differences are not very great in the different years), the number of persons committed to prison amounting in the year to 356,511, and the number of those discharged to 257,854, when I see that, while 127,837 are liberated on the termination of their punishment or through act of clemency, no less than 81,087 owe their liberation to the fact that they have not been found guilty of the crimes laid to their charge, and when I consider the unhappy condition of most of our establishments of preventive detention, my heart aches to think what a hotbed of corruption they constitute, and what a current of moral pestilence must find issue from them."

Capital punishment was in 1875, after much debate, adopted as the supreme penalty for the whole kingdom (inclusive of Tuscany, where it had not previously been in force) ; but in November 1877 the chambers voted by a large majority for the exclusion of the death-penalty from the new code. Between 1867 and 1876 inclusive 392 persons were condemned to death, but 351 received commutation of sentence, and only 34 were executed. In the same period 222 cases were subjected to a second trial, with the result that 20 of the accused parties were completely acquitted of the charge on which they had been previously condemned to death, and the whole of the remainder had their sentences commuted to penal servitude for life or some minor penalty. See Notizie sulle Condanni allapena di morte (Rome, 1878), epitomized in Arch. di Stat., 1878.

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