In recent days, new details and videos have emerged on the violence of 6 April 2020 in the prison of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, conducted by prison police officers of the structure and external against 300 people detained. In addition to having released some videos showing the beatings by the agents, Republic has published large extracts from the documents of the judicial investigation conducted by the Santa Maria CV prosecutor’s office which led to the issuance of 52 precautionary measures at the end of last June. The first images of the violence had previously been disseminated by the newspaper Tomorrow along with details of the investigation.
The documentation and the reconstructions show not only the violence carried out by the agents, but also the attempts by the perpetrators to hide what happened, declaring circumstances different from reality in the minutes and other documents. The CCTV images of the prison unequivocally show the violent interventions by the officers, who used batons and in some cases their own helmets to beat the detainees.
On April 5, 2020, the day before the violence in prison, a group of guests from the Nile ward (several wards of the prison have names of rivers) organized a protest to demand that masks and other protective equipment be provided to the detainees, to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. In fact, on the same day they learned from a news program that a first case of COVID-19 had been ascertained in the prison of Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
The protest was to be similar to those organized in the previous weeks in many Italian prisons, to ask for more safeguards against the risk of coronavirus outbreaks in closed and overcrowded structures.
Shortly before 20, the closing time of the cells, several detainees at the Nile refused to return, remaining in the corridor to continue with the protest. In some sections of the ward, cots were moved out of the cells, to be used as barricades preventing officers from passing through the corridors. According to the reconstructions, at least 22 people were in the corridors instead of being in the cells and already in the afternoon they had asked to be able to speak with the prison officials, without receiving an answer.
The situation improved during the night, after a confrontation with reassurances on the possibility of having masks, as well as an interview in a short time with the surveillance magistrate. The protest subsided between midnight and two in the morning, with the removal of the barricades by the same detainees, who also offered to participate in the reorganization of the corridors and cells. The commander of the Penitentiary Police, Gaetano Manganelli, would later prepare a report to the Prosecutor indicating the names of 12 people accused of fomenting the revolt.
The day after the protests, the commander of the Translations and guarding provincial nucleus, Pasquale Colucci, sent a report to Antonio Fullone, the regional administrator of prisons. The document provides, according to the prosecutor, a different version of the protests that took place on April 5:
Instead of resolving the situation, it seemed instead to precipitate, with the inmates threatening even to use boiling oil against the staff, if the same had decided to enter the ward. […] In this scenario they did not skimp on threats against the staff, who offended, threatened and invited them to leave, brandishing objects of different kinds.
On 6 April, about 300 prison and external prison police officers – superintendents, inspectors, commissioners and members of the Intervention Support Group (a structure that depends on the regional administrator Fullone) – organized according to the judiciary “arbitrary personal searches and abuses of authority », with the aim of giving an answer to the protests of the previous day in the Nile ward.
In a chat on WhatsApp with members of the Penitentiary Police of Santa Maria CV, rather clear messages were exchanged on the objectives of the initiative:
– So tomorrow keys and pickaxe in hand.
– We slaughter them like calves.
– Then nobody comes by.
– The kids know what to do.
– If three idiots come out of the cell and want to do something, there are reinforcement colleagues, they will be shot down immediately.
– The Nile Department must be closed forever, ‘u tiempo d’è good deeds is over, W the prison police.
The “search” began around 15:30 in the afternoon, with the intervention of agents in several cells of the Nile ward. Without providing any particular explanation, the detainees were asked to stand in front of their cells, with their hands and face leaning against the wall. The treatment was different depending on who was conducting the search and the presence or absence of the alleged organizers of the protest. The testimony of one of the detainees:
I followed the directions. And after a few minutes I was led into the corridor, with my head against the wall. And hands up. Several inmates were in the same position: they were naked, however. And they hit them with batons on the legs and buttocks. In the corridor overlooked by the cells of the sixth section there were many prison officers who had formed a sort of human corridor, forcing the inmates to cross it, hitting him with slaps, punches and batons. I was pushed and channeled into the corridor. I had to pass by and each of these had to give me a blow.
CCTV videos confirm this fact. They show how the detainees were forced to pass between two wings of officers, who used fists and batons to beat them.
The testimonies of other people in detention, published by Republic, recount the repeated violence suffered:
They kicked me in the ribs and punched me in the head. I kept myself close to the gate and said: “Enough, enough”. While I was holding on all 7-8 guards who were around me all gave me shovels. I put my hands on my head. They beat me with punches and batons. The kicks. Now I have broken ribs. They told me, “You piece of infamous shit, come down with us. I thought: these want to kill me.
After about 10 meters from the roundabout, on the Nile corridor, towards the long corridor leading to the other departments, the officer in the leather jacket who was behind me started beating me with the truncheon behind the head. He hit my back, my pelvis, my ribs. And he said to me: “You haven’t understood anything yet. We are the state, and you and all your comrades must die. Today you must die ”.
The surveillance inspector gave me the eye … From behind, he was hitting me. With fists. I shouted: “Come on, enough, please, enough. I’m afraid “. Then one came and gave me a head with a full-face helmet, he threw himself dead weight. I fainted. I collapsed. And they kept hitting me ».
Among the testimonies there are some about a fainting of a person detained in a corridor, also documented by a video. He collapses to the ground and is not helped by the agents in any way, then a doctor intervenes to ascertain his health conditions. The man is then made to sit down, while violence against other people is visible in the corridor.
Following the “search” 15 detained people were identified accused of having resisted and for this to be punished with a transfer to solitary confinement and exclusion for two weeks from common activities. Many of those affected were the same ones previously named as the organizers of the April 5 protest.
The transfer, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, was justified by the certificates issued by a doctor, who signed thirteen almost identical reports in which he indicated the presence of trauma “obtained” during the “containment activities by the staff of the prison police”. The attestations were compatible with the reports on the “search” carried out on April 6, which however told a rather different version of what happened in the prison and documented by CCTV videos.
Also in the group destined for isolation was Hakimi Lamine, a 28-year-old man of Algerian descent. He suffered from schizophrenia and needed medical treatment to keep it under control. Lamine had bruises and wounds due to the “search”, according to testimonies in the days after the violence he had repeatedly vomited blood and was physically very exhausted. He died on May 4 in solitary confinement, in a state of neglect and without medical supervision, according to the conclusions of the Prosecutor’s Office.
In the following months, the stories of the violence suffered on April 6 were reported by various interested parties to friends, family and some associations that deal with the rights of prisoners. Some complaints were then presented and the judiciary launched an investigation into what happened in the Nile ward.
After months of collecting testimonies, investigations and retrieving chats, documents, reports and videos, on June 27, 52 precautionary measures were ordered: 18 people were placed under house arrest, 23 were suspended from work and 8 agents were He was arrested in prison, on charges of showing more violent behavior than others.