İrem UZUN -TDO- Six prisoners have died after a series of jailhouse riots in Italy which were sparked by tough new measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.  Inmates set their prison on fire in Modena yesterday in an angry protest over a ban on family visits, unions said.

The trouble began in the northern city of Modena, where three people were reported to have died at the Saint Anna prison, while a further three died after being transferred from there. It is thought that at least two of the dead lost their lives to drug overdoses after they raided a prison hospital for the heroin substitute methadone. There were also riots at several other prisons in northern Italy and at facilities in Naples and the capital, Rome. Protests and riots broke out in several prisons over the weekend, beginning on Saturday in Salerno near Naples, where about 200 detainees vandalized the first floor of the building before barricading themselves on the roof, according to local media reports.

According to reports, Italian prisons are the most overcrowded in Europe. Forty-two prisons across the country have an overcrowding rate of over 150 percent. "I am well aware that an emergency such as the coronavirus can create tensions within prisons, but our aim with these measures must be made clear: it is our duty to protect the health and those who work and live in our penitentiaries," Alfonso Bonafede, justice minister, told reporters. On the other hand, "The problem is not the coronavirus. Overcrowding, organisational issues and decay are the problem. We worry about the spread of the coronavirus, but there are other illnesses already present due to a malfunctioning health system and unsanitary conditions,"  Gennarino de Fazio, the national secretary a prison police officers' union, said.

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