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from within an italian 'mafia' prison

carmelo musumeci | 06.08.2008 15:34 | Repression | World

a case of italian un-justice

----- Messaggio inoltrato -----
Da: clare holme
Inviato: Martedì 5 agosto 2008, 1:05:06
Oggetto: 'Zio Totò' and Bruno Contrada: a case of italian unjustice

----- Messaggio inoltrato -----
Da: clare holme
Inviato: Martedì 5 agosto 2008, 0:31:02
Oggetto: 'Zio Totò' di Carmelo Musumeci - in english

The different fates of Bruno Contrada and ‘Zio Totò’: or a case of Italian un-Justice.

The last ‘From Within’ report by Carmelo Musumeci, spokesman for many Italian ‘Mafia’ Lifers serving time in high security Italian ‘State’ prisons.

Article number 3 of the Italian Constitutional Act states that ‘’All citizen have equal social dignity in front of the law’’

And yet, it happens to be true that Bruno Contrada, who is old, ill and condemned to life imprisonment for belonging to the ‘mafia’ is serving his time at home, while ‘Zio Totò’ who is also old, ill and condemned for belonging to the ‘mafia’ is not only only serving time in jail but has been put into ‘day-time isolation’.

What is ‘day-time isolation’? It is a penal punishment –torture regime- which can be added to a life sentence. In fact, if lifers are all isolated during the night -which they spend in individual cells- day-time isolation renders the separation from society complete.

But who is the man I am referring to as ‘Zio Totò’?

His name on documents appears to be ‘Salvatore‘. ‘Totò’ is the abbreviation used normally both by friends and family.

‘Zio’ is the Italian term for uncle and is the word that other prisoners use when talking to or of this 76 year-old man as a sign of respect for his age.

Zio Totò has only recently been condemned to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court.

A few months ago he has also started enduring the three year ‘day-time isolation’ that was also then imposed on him.

But Zio Totò has become a fatalist. I think he has accepted the idea his life will end in jail.

He does not talk very much. His silences express, I think, resignation.

He is one of those old lifers who suffer from diabetes and a variety of other ailments but insisted on participating in the hunger strike that we decided to put into practice some time ago and found a good number of participants among the inmates of various Italian high security jails. It was a protest against life sentences which really last a lifetime over here and go against the constitutional principle that penalty should lead to rehabilitation -for there is no possibility of rehabilitation in an enduring lifelong detention as it sucks up any possibility of having a life of your own one day!-.

Zio Totò ate no food for much longer than many of the young men who took part in the protest and showed us what resilience is.

He is from Sicily and has told me that Sicilians have become so used to the arrogant ways of foreigners -who have been invading their the Mediterranean Island for hundreds of centuries- that though Sicilians can live with ‘suppecchieria’ –bullying- they never really ever bend to it.

Some of us here ask ourselves why an old man should be condemned to total isolation as well as life imprisonment.

Some of us wonder why he was not allowed to die in peace serving his time in jail without being submitted to this torture.

A few of us have come to the conclusion that when the State needs to hurt someone, the amount of pain that must be inflicted on that individual is never enough.

When I go for my daily stroll with other lifers, I pass in front of his cell and say hello. I shake his hand and then I ask him ‘How is it going Zio Totò?’. His response is always full of dignity and lacks self-pity. ‘Well!’ he will invariably say to me.

So, I often turn my eyes to the ground and walk away feeling bad because I know I will soon be having a chat with other human beings while we walk around the prison precinct, while he will still be confined to his cell in complete alones. Like a dog in a kennel.

Sometimes he is allowed to walk a bit in the hall which is near his cell. It is just a bit larger than that and when I pass that way to take my shower I often see him going backwards and forwards from the bars at the window to the bars in the gate at the end of the room. He is alive and yet not alive. He is not allowed to converse with any other living being.

Often, criminals become criminals without properly knowing it. But when a State becomes criminal and acts like a criminal it does know what it is doing!

The other day I chanced to meet him and had the opportunity I was waiting for of mentioning to him that we are organizing another hunger strike. This time we shall fast in turns. I also told him that we had all thought about him and decided he should not participate as he is too frail and old.

He immediately answered. ‘I want to take part. Allow me to feel useful and alive’.

It moved me. So I told him we shall inform him when the strike starts.

Zio Totò has a sunny, generous personality. He is a nice guy and always finds a kind word for everybody.

Since he has been obliged to undergo day-time isolation he has lost at least 10 kilograms. He can never walk outdoors and I can see he is starting to disappear.

It is like watching a candle flame die slowly out. I do not think he will survive these three years of isolation.

Many become criminals without truly knowing it.

When the State becomes criminal it chooses to become so.

Often, prisoners are at the same time victims and aggressors, even of themselves..

But the State is no victim and becomes an aggressor when it calls its vendetta ‘justice’.

What sort of justice is there in fact in obliging a 76 year old man to spend all his time in complete isolation, knowing he will never have the time to get to the end of his penalty?

I’m a mobster but I do ask myself this question. Do you, who are ‘people of good will’ ask yourselves the same thing?

Carmelo Musumeci,

Spoleto prison -central Italy-.

August 2008


carmelo musumeci
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