Italy to sell old prisons to build new ones

Italy plans to sell historic prisons in Rome, Milan, and Naples, which hold more than 3,000 inmates, to pay for modern ones, the justice minister said in a newspaper interview.

Milan’s San Vittore

, opened in 1879 and holding about 750 inmates, Rome’s Regina Coeli, built in the 1600s and with more than 600, and Naples’ Poggioreale, dating back to 1914 and with almost 2,000 prisoners, could be converted into hotels or private residences, la Repubblica said on Saturday.

The prisons are in the heart of their respective cities, with Regina Coeli on the banks of the Tiber in Rome’s popular Trastevere tourist neighbourhood.

The sale of the prime real estate would be used to build bigger and more modern facilities outside the cities, Justice Minister Andrea Orlando told la Repubblica.

Italy’s overcrowded prison system, which now holds some 54,000, was built to hold no more than 50,000 inmates.

Residents of all three cities are going to vote in June for new mayors and governments. The contests will be crucial tests for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party. Talks with the newly elected mayors about selling the prisons can start immediately after the elections, Orlando said.

Italy’s state holding company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti would handle the sales and possibly even the redevelopment.