Italy moves to stop Mafia leaders from leaving prison over coronavirus

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Italy’s top prosecutor on Wednesday vowed to put an end to Mafia leaders being released from prisons due to health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede’s comments come after public outcry over the release of some 376 Mafiosi and drug dealers since March.

A woman walks along the banks of Tiber river as the dome of St. Peter's Basilica stands out at background right, in Rome, Wednesday, May 6, 2020. 

A woman walks along the banks of Tiber river as the dome of St. Peter's Basilica stands out at background right, in Rome, Wednesday, May 6, 2020.  (LaPresse via AP)

Following a prison riot in March over restrictions imposed to contain the virus, officials decided to release inmates over the age of 70 who had health issues that made them susceptible to the virus, Reuters reported. Many of the inmates released have been placed under house arrest.

Bonafede said his office was working on plans to allow judges to reincarcerate the criminals who have been released, citing the decline in coronavirus cases in Italy.

“Judges will be allowed to review ... the release of high-security prisoners in light of the latest health situation,” Bonafede said.

Officials decided to release some inmates because of the risk prisons posed in Italy, a country that in March had the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

Many were dismayed by the decision, which was taken by judges using guidelines from the prisons department, according to Reuters.

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Maria Falcone, the sister of murdered anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, said Mafia leaders should have stayed in prison, regardless of their health.

On Wednesday, she told la Repubblica, a Rome-based newspaper: “They must remain in prison and under isolation.”

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As of Wednesday, Italy has confirmed a total of 214,457 cases of the novel coronavirus with some 29,685 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University.