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The program keeps the ex-cons away from crime, while they help tourists do the same.
Naples is a unique mix of architectural beauty and environmental violations. It is home to the infamous Camorra mafia, and has one of the highest crime rates in Italy. It’s no wonder that newly released ex-convicts find it easier to jump back into crime than find a regular job.
“The biggest financial enterprises in southern Italy are the mafia, the Camorra and the ‘Ndrangheta,” said Naples Councilman Corrado Gabriele, who oversees Esco-Dentro. “You don’t need to read Roberto Saviano’s great book to know that,” he said, citing “Gomorrah,” the internationally acclaimed book on the Neapolitan mafia. By targeting ex-cons, Gabriele is chipping away at the Camorra’s workforce. “With this small intervention, we hope they can avoid asking the Camorra for a job,” he said. Gabriele’s approach didn’t pass unnoticed. He has already received direct threats from the Camorra. His political opponents, on the other hand, have criticized him for hiring ex-cons as tour guides, saying that it could hurt the city’s image.
But the $2.8 million allocated by the European Union for Esco-Dentro, said Gabriele, is keeping hundreds of ex-convicts off the streets while providing on-the-job training that could be useful to them in the future — enough payback for the councilman to ignore the disapproving sneers.
Criminologist Antonio Di Rosario, who works for Esco-Dentro as a consultant, said the city is giving them a sense of community.
“This makes the reintegration process into society much easier,” said Di Rosario.
The program will run until December on EU funds. For now it’s unclear whether or not it will continue after that. The city seems unwilling to support the program out of its own pocket. This worries Esco-Dentro workers.
“I have 700 people waiting in line outside my office who don’t want to go back to crime,” said Pietro Ioia, “and we need to give them an answer. Because if they get a job, that means 700 less in the hands of Camorra, and that would be outstanding.”