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Patrie galere: deaths in Italian prisons from 2002 to 2012

Almost one thousand deaths from 2002 to 2012 in Italian prisons. This is the death toll shown by our interactive map, reporting prisoners who deceased of unnatural deaths. A project started with the aim of shedding light on the conditions detainees are often forced to live in and provides an overview of the phenomenon in terms of space and causes of death. (VERSIONE ITALIANA)



Map and chart show that 518 (56% out of 915 prisoners) committed suicide, pointing out self-inflicted death as first cause of unnatural decease; the second cause is sickness (183, 20%), followed by prisoners died under unclear circumstances (177, 19%). Finally, 26 prisoners deceased taking a drug overdose and 11 were victims of homicide.

This data journalism project – developed by Jacopo Ottaviani – is based on two sources. The first – the Ministry of Justice – provides the list of prisons in Italy, including their geographical addresses and contacts. The second – Ristretti Orizzonti – consists of an independent bullettin containing data on deaths in custody. Such bullettins report information about prisoners who deceased, including names, dates and prisons where they died.

The interactive map was developed by cross-referencing these two sources, involving free-of-charge technologies such as ScraperWiki and Google Refine.

Many stories can be found by viewing the map. Most of them did not find coverage in the mainstream media. For instance, almost nobody was fully aware about the almost forty deaths of those detained in mental hospitals; or about prisoners who took a drug overdose behind bars.

Some stories clash with our perceived stereotypes: nobody normally imagines that those who die in jail may be women, such as Manuela Contu and Franca Fiorini, 42-year and 37-year respectively, died of overdose in Civitavecchia in 2003. Or like Francesca Caponnetto, deceased in Messina in 2004, aged 40. Other prisoners died very young, such as a 17-year old boy, who committed suicide in Firenze, in 2009. No one knows about 50 young prisoners who died aged under 20, such as Maurizio Pintabona, deceased in San Vittore when he was 20 years old.

By viewing the map the famous name of Stefano Cucchi can be found, died in Regina Coeli, a prison in Rome. Cucchi’s case was widely reported by the mainstream media, but in the map it looks similar to other cases which did not find any coverage.

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