1st Edition

The Politics of Prison Crowding A Critical Analysis of the Italian Prison System

By Simone Santorso Copyright 2023
    220 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Politics of Prison Crowding investigates recent transformations in Italy’s penal system to make the key analytical observation that conditions of overcrowding have become the ‘new normal’ under which the modern prison system continues to operate and deliver punishment. Engaging with the politics of crowding thus entails a direct and pertinent engagement with the modern state’s politics of criminal justice and social control.

    Worldwide, over the last decades, a growing number of jurisdictions have prison systems operating above or to the limit of their capacity, yet little attention has been paid to these elements in the analysis of prison politics and day-to-day functions. By exploring the crowding issue, this book offers an original and interesting insight into the politics and dynamics characterising contemporary prison systems. The hypothesis of this book is that the politics of prison crowding have become the template for the daily administration of the prison system, which incorporates not just policy and rules but day-to-day functions and practices regulating life behind bars. Through interviews in modern Italian prisons, the book brings to light a radical redefinition of a carceral system that harshens the delivery of punishment while justifying this exacerbation of pain by adding new bureaucratic logic to the administration of the penal system within a narrative of compliance to human rights standards.

    By shedding new light on prison politics to open new critical perspectives and research paths, The Politics of Prison Crowding offers a fundamental tool to scholars, students, and all professional policymakers and practitioners dealing with prison policies and the politics of justice.


    Part I - Conceptual challenges on punishment and imprisonment

    Chapter 1 - Literature review: carceral state and managerial turn

    Chapter 2 - The roots of the transformation of the Italian prison system

    Chapter 3 - Fracturing the Italian carceral system

    Chapter 4 - Prison crowding: From harm denial to the managerial turn

    Part II - Researching the Italian carceral landscape: Methodology

    Chapter 5 –Space and time in overcrowded prisons: ‘4 sqm means nothing’

    Chapter 6 - The Economy of Prison Life

    Chapter 7 - Redrawing the Colour Line behind bars

    Chapter 8 - Rehabilitation and dynamic security in the Italian prison: challenges in transforming prison officers’ roles

    Conclusion: Some final remarks


    Simone Santorso is a lecturer at the University of Sussex. Simone’s principal research interests are punishment, prison, and detention. Additionally, he has been a principal or co-investigator on research projects on prison and punishment, gang and organised crime, and police and technology. Simone’s research brings together theoretical concepts, findings and insights from a variety of disciplinary fields, especially sociology, anthropology, law, and history. He is the author of several journal articles, reports, chapters, and books and is a founding member of the European Prison Observatory.