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Italy's get out of jail card

Italy looks to job training programs to prevent prison overcrowding.

Last month, Italy's Justice Ministry decided to take the center's model nationwide, creating a national employment exchange for prisoners with funding of 4.8 million euros (more than $6 million). Convicts will be provided with job training and work experience. They will also have a chance to continue in these jobs once they finish serving their terms. It is estimated that the project will involve around 6,000 people in the first three years.

Justice Minister Angelino Alfano hopes such programs will help take pressure off the country's overcrowded prisons. Italy's constitution demands that punishment “must aim at re-educating the convicted." But until now funding for policies aimed at preventing re-offending have been practically non-existent: just eight euro cents (about one dime) out of a daily expense per inmate of 113 euros (about $145).

The government is convinced the Caltagirone model can help steer prison reform in Italy. But Antigone remains skeptical of the lavish funding given to an association that has, until now, just run a single small center.

It is hard to understand “why the ministry gave so much money to people with little overall experience of the prison sector," a statement from Antigone said.

The statement expressed hoped that the project would at least be "closely monitored."

For Pasquale, though, it has already done more than enough: He says it offered him a chance at "redemption."