Report on Prison Uprising in Bologna, Italy

Published March 15, 2020




On the afternoon of Monday March 9, a riot broke out inside the Dozza prison in Bologna.

Among the triggering causes of the revolt were the measures that the government and the Dap (Department of Administration of Prisons) have adopted, starting from February 25th, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the jails, such as the cancellation of the visual talks, the possibility of making only one phone call ten minutes a week, the inability to allow parcels to enter from outside, the suspension of the entry of volunteers, the suspension of semi-freedom, work outside and award permits; and in parallel, the false promises of increasing telephone conversations or even being able to make Skype video calls, when it is known that these possibilities are not guaranteed even to the extent that they should ordinarily be. These hardening measures add to the conditions, which have always existed, of overcrowding, bad hygiene conditions and a structural lack of access to health care that characterize the Dozza, as well as all the prisons in Italy. On March 5, it was announced that the weekly live interviews were again possible with the allowed access of one adult relative at a time, while, with the outbreak of riots in other prisons, the prisoners’ families had no longer been able to receive news of their loved ones and communicate with them.

A few days later, on March 9, the revolt also broke out at the Dozza prison where a garrison of solidarity and friends / relatives spontaneously arose in front of the penitentiary institution, as the news began to spread. Family members were prevented from the outset by a huge deployment of police from approaching the prison entrance and getting news. Information was circulating that some sections of the prison had been occupied, but only uncertain information followed for several hours. Only later did it become known from the newspapers that only the judicial sections were occupied. The deafening silence of the district, as well as of the whole city, was broken only by the sound of sirens. The attempt to bring the garrison closer to the male section, prevented by the deployment of the police, made it possible to hear some screams and beating from inside. The garrison then moved to the main road, creating a traffic block to get closer to the side of the women’s section; even if no response was heard at the moment, the news came later that the inmates gave rise to a protest.

Neither the guards nor the firefighters - whose vehicle was briefly blocked outside the prison - wanted to say anything, not even to reassure the mothers, companions and sisters of those who were inside, even after two ambulances had run away urgently from prison right in front of the eyes of those who were present outside.

The silence from the authorities to the requests for news from those who have their loved ones locked up in there, left an abyss of uncertainty and concern, fueled also by the news of the massacre that took place in the nearby Modena prison, as well as by the riots that were taking place in about thirty Italian prisons. This did nothing but mount the anger and the desire to stay there and be heard. In the health emergency, solidarity does not go into isolation.

Only in the late evening did a dense cloud of smoke start to emerge around 10 pm, coming out of the male block simultaneously with movements on the roof of the same block. The prisoners who had barricaded themselves in section and climbed onto the roof then started screaming and setting fire to objects, shouting “Freedom!” to the group of supporters and relatives who responded with cheers, messages of solidarity and whistles. The revolt and fires in the men’s block continued throughout the night, during which 4 prison police cars went on fire, and continued until lunchtime the following day.


On the morning of the following day, Tuesday the 10th, a spontaneous garrison was formed outside the walls of the Dozza. The prisoners still on the roof had hung banners claiming rights, freedoms and pardon while the building remained surrounded by cops. Again it was impossible to receive certain information of what was happening inside. The news that circulated was that of an ongoing negotiations between the inmates in revolt and the direction of the prison and the head of the guards, while another group of inmates wanted to start a negotiation only with a surveillance magistrate, who arrived in the morning.

After no one saw or received any answers for a couple of hours, around 3 pm the cops were seen in riot gear on the roof, brandishing the truncheon, in the direction of the group of support, as a sign of victory and screaming “the state has won.” However, we tried to get our voice beyond the distant walls, to try to communicate to the detainees what was happening in the other prisons, to express our solidarity again by wishing all the people imprisoned in that prison to be able to take liberty.

In the meantime, the news was circulating that the protest had returned and the negotiation ended, but it is not possible today to know precisely the modalities and the results, beyond what was leaked by the media, according to which the prisoners would return to the section, with the requests to allow the re-entry of educators and alternative punishment measures to imprisonment. Also according to the newspapers, 20 prisoners were injured, including 16 on the spot. The wounded guards: 2.

On the morning of Wednesday 11, we learned of the certainty of at least one transfer in the early morning. For now, it is not known to family members or lawyers about the identity of the people transferred, or their destination.

In the afternoon, it was learned from the media that two inmates died of an overdose, the same official version used for the other 13 who died in the prisons of Modena and Rieti. The fact remains that the Modena facility is totally uninhabitable thanks to the uprising and even that of Bologna is reporting damage that has yet to be defined but certainly huge. From the media it was reported that on the afternoon of Tuesday the 10th, a few hours after the conclusion of the revolt of Dozza, the Inspectorate of the prison administration, in Viale Vicini was damaged by “vandals,” breaking the glass of the entrance door. The vandals themselves signed the action, leaving writings such as “ACAB,” “Solidarity with the inmates at war,” “Fire to the jails” and “Jailers are assassins.”


On the afternoon of Thursday the 12th, a quick greeting was made to the prison, in an attempt to reach the male section and assessing the inopportunity / ineffectiveness of a public call given the uncertainties of the current general situation linked to the effects of the ordinances. About twenty people managed to get there and exchange greetings with the prisoners, to the mutual cry of “freedom,” in particular with the As3 section and with other more distant sections. Who was in As has no knowledge of what happened, as it is isolated, and among the detainees of the other sections, nobody has been able to report what treatment was reserved for prisoners after the revolt, nor is there news about the person who died in prison. From within, came clearly requests for help, as well as the express request that the guards must wear masks and the shared affirmation that [Italian minister of justice] Bonafede wants to make them die in there. It is evident that the imposition of isolation on detainees, among themselves and with the outside world, transcends the real needs of prevention and containment of the contagion in prison, if then the guards themselves, potential vehicles of the virus, are not to wear the masks. According to official sources today, it seems that one person and not two died, as some local newspapers reported up to this morning, and that there were 15 transfers to other prisons between yesterday and today, but neither the people nor the destination are known. Family members and lawyers are still prevented from having news of loved ones, much less from communicating with them or from being able to send parcels inside. Family members say, however, that they keep them in the destroyed prison, sleeping on the ground, and that it is not known if the canteen works.

The Authorities, since the first riots and the news of the first deaths, continued to invoke the iron fist against the prisoners, the complete isolation of the same, omitting to provide any news to family members and lawyers on where they were transferred and on their health conditions, thus preventing contact with them, as well as making known the identity of people who died in prison in the hands of the state.

The riots in prisons all over Italy these days clearly show that in emergency situations, the first who pay for them are those who experience the worst conditions every day, the same ones who have decided to rebel and unleash riots to break out of these prisons. It is not only in the moment of exception that the jail appears to us as something unacceptable that must be destroyed, now simply someone has had the courage to bring us out of this reality by rebelling against the decision.

We do not believe it is ever possible, but even more so in the face of all this, to limit the stances to the request for amnesty for some, letting the other prisoners risk daily isolation and death in the infamous jails.

Freedom for all prisoners, that only rubble remains of every prison.

That state deaths do not fall into indifference!

Solidarity with the prisoners in revolt!

As long as there are prisons that burn, the state has not won.