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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Jailed Mafia bosses refuse food
Salvatore
The "boss of bosses" was arrested for murder in 1993
A number of jailed Mafia bosses have begun a protest against the conditions of their incarceration in Italy's high security jails.

As many as 300 people are refusing the food provided by the jails in an attempt to pressure parliament to relax the stringent prison regime.

Restrictions
One family visit a month
One phone call a month
No contact with fellow inmates from same organisation
Two hours a day of open-air exercise
However, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman told BBC News Online that the protest was not a hunger strike - inmates were eating food brought by their families or bought at the prison shops, and the situation was "under control".

Under the current legislation, Mafia prisoners are held in isolation, with rare visits from family members and minimum communication with the outside world.

Legislation

The protest began at Marino del Trento - the island prison in northern Italy where the "boss of bosses" Salvatore "Toto" Riina is serving his sentence.

It then spread to three other high security jails.

Apart from refusing prison food, the inmates have been constantly banging the metalwork of their cells.

They have written to the Italian Justice Ministry demanding the amendment of the provisions of article 41 bis - the piece of legislation introduced in 1992 to prevent Mafia bosses from continuing to direct criminal activities from their cells.

But Italian lawmakers have been discussing government proposals to make the stringent security arrangements - which were originally introduced as a temporary measure - a permanent fixture of the prisons regime.

Under these measures, inmates are allowed one family visit a month and one telephone call to them lasting no more than 10 minutes. They are also allowed a maximum of two hours a day to exercise in the open.

See also:

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