Italy's justice minister says prison officials knew of a serial killer's lengthy criminal record when they let him go visit his elderly mother and then escaped.

But Annamaria Cancellieri defended the practice of granting such good-behavior passes as necessary to begin reintegrating inmates due for release back into society.

Cancellieri briefed Parliament on Friday as the manhunt continued for Bartolomeo Gagliano, who was let out of prison in Genoa on a two-day pass for good behavior earlier this week. He carjacked a baker at gunpoint in Savona and later drove off in his car.

While criticizing aspects of Gagliano's case, Cancellieri defended the granting of such passes as necessary and generally safe, citing a 1 percent no-return rate.