Prisoners in Italy trusted to make coffee for the judges who sentenced them

Italian prisoners will serve coffee to judges in TurinREUTERS/Jason Reed

Judges in Italy might want to think twice about grabbing a coffee from the shop inside Turin's courthouse. In a few months time, prisoners will be making and serving hot drinks as part of a community service initiative.

Architects of the scheme hope that by working as baristas, the city's convicts will be less likely to reoffend once they are released – they will be entitled to keep their jobs when they leave prison.

That may be little comfort to the city's judges when they order their cappuccinos on a Monday morning and recognise the men behind the bar.

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The city council approved the plans on 4 October but it will be a few months before it comes to fruition, AFP reported.

"This is part of efforts to humanise the detention of prisoners: having a job during the day, being in contact with clients, helps reintegrate offenders at the end of their sentences," council spokesperson Michele Chicco said.

Approximately 900 people work at the busy courthouse, excluding judges and lawyers. Added to that, there are the hundreds of members of the public involved in cases every day.

Italian authorities are desperate to find ways to reduce recidivism and ease the pressure on the nation's crowded jails. Earlier this month the Council of Europe said many of Italy's prisons were "operating above capacity", and criticised multiple cases of ill treatment dished out be prison guards.

Prisoners' rights group Antigone said the Council's reports merely confirmed issues it has been drawing attention to for some time.

In late July, Antigone reported that 29 Italian inmates had killed themselves since the start of the year. President Patrizio Gonnella demanded "immediate measures" to be taken, including increased opportunities for maintaining family relationships.

Judges in Turin might have a reason to pass down more lenient sentencesiStock

A report by Antigone said the overcrowding rate in Italian prisons was 113% – 113 prisoners per 100 places – while in some jails it was as high as 185%. The group said Italy also had one of the lowest ratios of guards to inmates in Europe.

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The Council's report found that, despite improvements made to the overcrowding situation at the start of the decade, the situation had got worse since 2016 "largely as a result of increased resort to remand detention, particularly in respect of foreign nationals".

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