Volume 4 (4): 461–482: 1477-3708 DOI: 10.1177/1477370807080722 Copyright © 2007 European Society of Criminology and SAGE Publications Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore www.sagepublications.com
Crime and Criminal Policy in Italy*
Tradition and Modernity in a Troubled Country
University of Parma, Italy
Isabella Merzagora Betsos
University of Milan, Italy
ABSTRACT This paper investigates the development of criminology research in Italy and places it in the context of broader considerations of the country’s policies on crime and criminal justice. An overview of Italian research on crime and criminology reveals the versatility of Italian literature and jurisprudence; it also indicates that ‘new’ forms of criminality (such as white-collar crimes, sexual offences and the crimes of immigrants) are being discussed alongside the more traditional topics of murder, crimes against property and organized crime. Furthermore, this survey attempts to clarify why, in Italy, the level of public confidence in the criminal justice system is so low, despite the numerous recent reforms and the official crime rates, according to which Italy is within the European norm for most categories of offences. KEY WORDS Criminal Policy / Italy / Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice.
Italy may be considered the motherland of criminology in the 18th and 19th centuries. In those early days, the Classical and Positivist models offered
* Stefano Maffei wrote sections 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3, 4.3, 4.4 and 5; Isabella Merzagora Betsos wrote sections 2.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7.
European Journal of Criminology 4(4)
opposing explanations of criminal behaviour and several distinguished Italians led the debate. In 1764, Cesare Beccaria published his masterpiece On Crimes and Punishments, arguing in favour of a comprehensive reform of the European criminal justice systems; a century later, Cesare Lombroso founded the Italian Positivist School and went on to be remembered as the father of criminology. Lombroso rejected the established Classical School belief, which held that people are rational decision-makers and hence crime is the product of a free choice by the offender. Instead, using concepts drawn from physiognomy, early eugenics, psychiatry and social Darwinism, Lombroso’s theory (known as ‘criminal anthropology’) argued that criminality was inherited and that the ‘born criminal’ could be identified by certain physical features. Although this approach has been superseded – even in Italy biological criminology now has very few followers (Marchetti 2004) – criminal anthropology developed as an academic subject, studied within the faculties of medicine (as well as of law) of Italian universities. A sociological approach to criminology was also adopted by Enrico Ferri, an Italian often celebrated for his works on the social and economic roots of crime. This survey begins with a brief description of the political and economic context of contemporary Italy and its criminal justice system. The academic standing of criminology and the sources of funding for criminological research are then outlined. Some remarks on crime statistics and the chronic overcrowding of state prisons follow. The analysis then moves on to consider the most salient themes investigated by contemporary research in criminology: from the traditional forms of violent crimes (murder, theft) to organized crime, from sexual offences to the new forms of criminality.
2.1 Political and economic context Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The Constitution was promulgated on 1 January 1948. The economy has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. From an agriculturally based economy, Italy has developed into an...