ADIR - L'altro diritto

ISSN 1827-0565

The 1987 riot in Porto Azzurro prison

Ilaria Masini, 1997


The new Italian penitentiary law, based on the 1975 law n. 354, and developed by the well known "Gozzini Law", is based on the philosophy of "reeducation", meant to let the reeducational ratio prevail on the merely repressive one. Penitentiary treatment is carried out firstly through education, cultural activities and prison work. In a second time, if the convict behaved correctly and let the judges presume he is prepared to come back to society, he could be admitted to alternative sanctions, as long as he served the required part of his sentence. This reform divided scholars, theorists and workers. Those who support the law accept the reeducational paradigm, and maintain that this law contributed to a decrease of violence in prison, being good behaviour a prerequisite to access alternative sanctions. On the opposite side it is maintained that the reform produced mostly hypocrisy: those who access alternative sanctions are usually the smartest and the richest among convicts.

In any case it is obvious that the reform is not enough to solve any problem and to turn convicts into obedient children. And this became particularly clear with the Porto Azzurro riot in 1987.

For the prison in the Elba isle it was a very quite time and it was probably the prison that was enforcing the Gozzini law in the best way. An efficient administration, made possible also thanks to the governor Cosimo Giordano, in a prison often considered as a model. But with the August 25th riot everything, from the governor to the reform, is brought up again for discussion.

This research aims at reconstructing this riot through the testimony of the protagonists and the official documents. This event, although with no actual victims, affected many people who, ten years after, are still overwhelmed by emotions while telling this story.

The research begins with the news of those days, with many facts first reported and then denied. For a long while it was for instance impossible to understand even the intentions of the rebels. Only at the end of the riot, after the questioning of Mario Tuti, it became clear that the goal was simply to escape. An attempted escape turned into a kidnapping for ransom. Not a riot at all!

The research analyses also Tuti handbook and the seven huge files of Livorno court, reporting the phone conversations of rebel and hostages with judges, lawyers and families.

The third part of the research is entirely devoted to interviews: to the governor Cosimo Giordano, to the mayor Maurizio Papi, to Cesare Pellino and to Doct. Sergio Carlotti, to the surveillance Court and to the hostages, included Rossella Giazzi, the only female in the hand of the rebels. Finally a visit to the Porto Azzurro prison is reported, aimed at understanding how the prison is changed after these events.