logo of file in hand opening a hole towards viewer, "La Lima Casa Di Solidarietá"

Solidarity With Prisoner Resistance from Alabama to Italy

Solidarity With Prisoner Resistance from Alabama to Italy

"Alfredo out from 41 bis Close 41 bis Freedom for everyone We are facing an attempt by the state to annihilate our comrade Alfredo Cospito, burying him in the infamous 41 bis prison regime to take revenge for his actions and prevent him from continuing to spread his ideas outside. Therefore, we, anarchists, think it is imperative to launch, starting now, a widespread mobilisation to take him out of 41bis. We think it is necessary to deploy a range of practices, everyone according to their own tensions, in order to force the state to remove revolutionary comrade Alfredo Cospito from 41 bis. We are aware of the partial nature of this struggle, but the repressive stranglehold is such that we believe it is necessary to oppose it with all our strength, because we see it as an attempt by the state to undermine, for everyone, the possibilities of fighting against this system. We are convinced that we must defend the comrade’s choices and the practices for which he was sentenced, practices that have always belonged to anarchism. 41 bis is a torture regime, set up to silence, isolate and force collaboration with the institutions: it must be torn down along with all prisons. While the state tries to annihilate us, we remain aware that the best defence is always the attack. DEATH TO THE STATE LONG LIVE ANARCHY Anarchists" + a hand holding a lit ball bomb + "TFSR 10-30-22"
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This week on the show, you’ll hear from Diyawn Caldwell, founder of “Both Sides Of The Wall” which has been supporting striking people behind bars across the Alabama Dept of Corrections where incarcerated workers refused their unpaid work over 3 weeks. The strike is on hold, for now, but prisoners continue resistance despite repression. You can learn more abut the group by finding them on social media or visiting BothSidesOfTheWall.com [00:01:07 – 00:19:31]

Then, you’ll hear anarchist comrades from the anti-repression solidarity group called La Lima, or The File, from Rome, Italy. The comrades will share about the situation of Alfredo Cospito who is now on hunger strike against the conditions in the 41bis hard prison regime. You can hear an interview from 2019 also that gives some context of other anarchist and anticapitalist radical prisoners resisting 41bis in Italy at that time. To keep up on resistance, you can visit ActForFree.NoBlogs.Org or check out the post on EnoughIsEnough calling for international solidarity. [00:20:43 – 00:53:10]

Plus, a segment from Sean Swain with a proposal for these United States…. [00:55:36 – end]

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Featured Tracks:

  • Moving Through Streets (Instrumental version) by The Psycho Realm by Moving Through Streets / Sick Dogs 12″
  • Ballata Per L’Anarchico Pinelli by Gruppo “Z” from Canti Anarchici Italiani (Italian Songs Of Anarchy)

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Alabama Prisoner Struggle Transcription

Diyawn Caldwell: My name is Diyawn Caldwell, my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am the founder of Both Sides Of The Wall.

TFSR: Great. Could you talk a bit about Both Sides Of The Wall, where you all are based out of, how it came to be, and what you all do?

DC: Yeah. Both Sides Of The Wall is an organization that is committed to changing the criminal justice system, also committed to serving the incarcerated citizens and their families. We specialize in re-entry, participatory defense, criminal justice reform, prison reform, and the needs of the incarcerated individuals and their families.

TFSR: What’s your relationship to incarceration? Have you been incarcerated before? Do you have any loved ones behind the walls that you’re advocating with?

DC: I have been incarcerated previously. No prison time. I have a husband that has been incarcerated for 17 years in the Alabama Department of Corrections.

TFSR: That right there is a pretty good reason to be involved in trying to reform or trying to increase the situation for him and folks like him who are stuck behind bars.

DC: Absolutely. Yes. Definitely. You know, you can’t say you love someone that is incarcerated and see what they’re going through in their living conditions and not want to fight and step up and be a part of it. I mean, I don’t see how those two mesh together. If you say that you love someone, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to try to improve their situation, especially if they’re being wronged, or if they’re living in unjust conditions, or living in an unjust penal system.

TFSR: So as I understand there are multiple different formations and groups and individuals taking part behind bars in the strike that’s going on in the Alabama Department of Corrections system. Can you talk a little bit about what some of the groups are that you’ve seen engaging, and what the demands are? Maybe starting with what the general conditions that people like your husband are experiencing?

DC: Well, basically, inside the Department of Corrections, they are living in decrepit, inhumane conditions. They’re living in black mold, the conditions are overcrowded, they have up to 200 men in a warehouse bay that was designed for programming. They have turned all the programming dorms in to living quarters. They have maybe two feet between each one of them that they sleep in. The showers are molded. For 200 men you probably have three toilets and two sinks that work in each bay… two phones to reach out to the family members. If you look and see the conditions, I can send you some pictures, it looks worse than some third world countries. So the guys have banned together to stand up and fight for themselves, fight for their rights, fight for what the taxpayers pay for. Where’s the money going? Because it’s definitely not going to improve the conditions of the prison system.

Then you have the parole board. We have a 98% denial rate. They have no hope. They have no way out. Men and women are getting denied at an all time high, even though they have met every criteria that there is to be able to make parole. They have the institution of parole officer that comes in and assesses them according to the OR stat lines, which is Ohio Risk Assessment that they use. They give the findings to the parole board. Their file has been given over from the institutional of parole officers stating that they have met the guidelines and they’re a good candidate for parole. However, the parole board is still denying them because they have the discretionary call and the parole bill saying regardless that meet the guidelines, regardless if they have done everything possible to rehabilitate themselves and take every program to rehabilitate themselves, they still find and deem them ‘not fit’ to make parole because of that discretionary clause.

TFSR: Is there an impetus for those parole officers or for the departments that run the parole boards economically? To not parole people because they get federal funding out of having more people behind bars, or is there some sort of way to follow the money as to why this is happening? Or what do you think is the the reason that these parole boards are failing to to parole people?

DC: I think they all work together. I do think it’s an economical issue. They’re profiting off the backs of our people. They are trying to build these three new mega prisons, so they have to house the people in these prisons. I think that’s one of the impetus’ behind it. Because they want to fill these prisons. They have to pay these bonds back. They have to profit. In order to do that, they have to hold people incarcerated.

We also have this issue of convict leasing. This has been going on for decades, for centuries. They are profiting through these corporations and these jobs and these government entities who have our people go out and work for little or nothing. When I say a little or nothing, I mean a little. 30 to 35 cents an hour, you know, $1 an hour. They are profiting big time off of the convict leasing program that they have going on.

Of course, we have the factories as well. You have one at home. Every tag in Alabama and Southern Mississippi are made through that tag plant. You have the sewing factory and the furniture factory, they build furniture and sell to high end companies. So yes, it is a profitable entity that they’re using to keep our people incarcerated.

TFSR: Yeah, and when you’re using language like convict lease and saying that is going on for centuries, it is not too much to say that the United States built its wealth as a government and as a nation off of the backs of incarcerated and disinterred people who were living here who had been living or African folks that were brought here and worked to death. Convict leasing goes to the period after the Civil War when the black codes were passed, right. And it allowed for a continuation through the 13th amendment of the extraction of labor through the criminalization of mostly Black folks in this country.

I know that Alabama has had a long history, especially in the last decade, of incarcerated folks and their supporters on the outside speaking in terms of the forced extraction of labor through the prison system, and through the jails as being a continuation of slavery. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that, in your perspective, if you think that’s a fair assessment?

DC: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we have to look at it for what it is. It is definitely a racial bias when it comes down to the judicial system and incarceration. They definitely utilize the Black and brown people to bring profitability to the States, every state in the United States. They also have the slavery clauses that is still in the 13th amendment. So, how are we free? That’s their tactic and their way of utilizing us, again, as Black and brown people with that clause in the 13th amendment saying that you are free unless you have committed a crime, and then you are then a slave. So how are you saying that we’re free? But if we commit a crime then we are slaves. That makes absolutely no sense. If we’re free, we’re free. If we commit a crime, then we pay the cost for our crime, and we continue to go on as free citizens. That’s not right. Even in the Alabama 1901 constitution section 32, it still says that it has involuntary servitude clause in there basically saying the same thing, ‘You are slave if you’ve committed a crime.’

So yes, there’s a lot of disparities in the law. There is a lot of racial bias when it comes to incarceration. They use that to their benefit to continue to confine us Black and brown people as slaves.

TFSR: You were mentioning those things about where’s the money going and the different parts of the prison facilities being used for housing people when they would have been recreational or educational centers, overpopulation in the prisons in existing facilities, and [Alabama Governor] Kay Ivey and other people in the state government pushing for building new mega prisons. At the same time what I’ve heard from incarcerated folks in past interviews, and also seen through work stoppages, or a lack of, or a refusal to get hired for jobs working in these facilities, is that people on the outside who might be doing these jobs, working class people, often Black and brown, sometimes white, are put into a dangerous, overpopulated situation. I have no love for prison guards, but they can’t hire them, because no one will take the jobs because of the the wages that they’re being offered. So in the meantime, it seems like the State government is basically holding the whole population of the State sort of hostage and creating a very dangerous scenario, almost waiting for it to sort of boil over in order to push through the building of these big infrastructure projects.

DC: Yes, definitely. They try to use that as a pedestal to say, “okay, we need to build these in prisons. That way we don’t need as many guards with the infrastructure that it will be built under.” However, what are you doing at this point now? We’re losing people every day. Bodies are leaving out of those facilities every day. So what are you going to do in the meantime, in the between time? Let’s just be real about the situation. If you’re building mega prisons that’s going to house 4000 people, you still don’t have enough guards to fill those positions with the capacity that you have now. That’s not our problem. That’s not the general public’s problem. They need to pay more. They need to do whatever they need to do to get people in there because there is a safety and security risk when it comes down to it, because these guys have no oversight. So when they have a disruption in there… prime example: There was a young man around two weeks ago that got killed in Limestone Prison up in the Huntsville area. You mean to tell me there was no guard in the dorm to intervene, to call for help, to call for any type of outside help, a nurse or anything, and this guy just lay there and bled out and died because you all do not have the proper setup. That’s asinine.

TFSR: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been hearing through friends, for instance at William E. Donaldson Correctional about pretty frequent suicide of prisoners under the conditions that there, where they’re not being offered medical treatment or counseling of any sort. There’s a constant decrease in the quality of food being available to people, overcrowding, which will lead to more acts of violence among folks and less oversight when there are dangerous situations by whatever guards there might be around.

DC: I question if they really are all suicides. I questioned that because especially the offices up there, they have a history of murdering individuals, incarcerated citizens, and getting away with it. So I question if they’re all suicides, I really do. They cover up a lot of things. They list these deaths as different causes than what they really are. So I question, again, if they’re all suicides. I wouldn’t be surprised if the guards murdered a few of them. Do we have people that are hopeless that are committing suicide? Yes, we do. But at the rate that they’re recording it, I don’t believe it.

TFSR: Not to say that the federal government is a great bastion of rights and justice for people. But they’ve stepped in multiple times to sue the government of Alabama because of the activities in the Department of Corrections & Prisons, because they’re creating these unsafe circumstances.

You had mentioned before the denial of parole. I know one of the demands that I’ve seen listed from prisoners on the inside is doing away with life without parole. Denying people parole is a de facto way of just creating a life without parole circumstance, as well as creating a Statewide Conviction Integrity Unit to investigate questions of messed up convictions that are unjust against people, mandatory parole criteria that will guarantee parole to all eligible people who meet the criteria, as you said, streamlined review process for medical furloughs and review of elderly incarcerated individuals for medical release.

Do you have any anecdotes of people that you’re in contact with on the inside having to navigate the so called medical care inside of the prison system?

DC: No, I don’t have any that I can name here publicly. I do want to say that, along with those demands, too, we do have several other demands that are not listed. One being to reinstate Good Time for all eligible incarcerated citizens that are eligible to return to society. So that is one of the biggest ones that will alleviate a lot of the overcrowding. If they go back and look at the demands that the governor called unreasonable, which are definitely reasonable, they will see that a few of the demands were in the last legislative session to be voted on, to be looked over. So how are they unreasonable if bills have already been drafted around these situations in these demands.

All the demands will alleviate the overcrowding situation, which will help the staffing situation, which will in retrospect help a lot of the issues that are surrounded in the DOJ report. I mean, okay, we can’t correct the activities in the way that they treat and handle the inmates through these demands. That’s something that has to be implemented through policy and followed up upon, and people are held accountable for their actions, but a lot of the demands will alleviate a lot of issues within the DOJ lawsuit.

Also, I want to say this: We’re not looking for the DOJ to come in and save us. The DOJ has sued Alabama on several occasions and they have not yet to come and take over these prisons. How many bodies do we have to lose before they come in and step in and take over the prisons? I mean, are you all comfortable going to sleep at night knowing that people are dying and you have not intervened? That makes absolutely no sense to me. How many bodies do we have to lose? That in itself gives a reason for emergency intervention. There is no staff there to help intervene with these issues and we are losing people. Why have they not stepped in? That is my question.

TFSR: That’s a totally fair question.

I’d love to learn more about the strike as far as you know it. It’s weeks in at this point. And if you don’t have a sense of this, it’s perfectly fine. But if you wouldn’t mind talking about what you’re aware of if folks on the inside are putting down tools, or refusing to leave their cells, refusing to eat, or attend educational sessions, or is it some mixture of those things? Do you have a sense of which facilities are participating? I’ve heard there’s been more repression recently, so things might have changed.

DC: Yes. We have come to an agreement with the guys on the inside. We take our orders from the guys on the inside, because they are the ones that are living in those conditions. So we just follow their footsteps. However, they have decided to put the strike on hold to give the governor and the legislators and the state of Alabama the opportunity to address our grievances and demands. However, if they have not addressed our demands within a reasonable amount of time, then the women and the men inside will resume the strike. We will continue this and continue with things until they do something. We’re gonna have to tie their hands, you know? We’re going to tie their hands.

TFSR: So, Both Sides Of The Wall had a recent demonstration outside of the Capitol, the State Capitol in Montgomery, how did that go? What was the attendance like? And do you think that you got your point across?

DC: I definitely think we’re building momentum. We got our point across. Kay Ivey was looking at us outside of the window, so she was paying attention to what was going on. We had around 500 people there on the roster, some people did not sign the roster. So I’m sure we had more than that to attend the rally.

We are constantly building momentum, we are going to start going to every major city here shortly to educate people on what’s going on. For people that cannot travel to Montgomery, we’re coming to them. We’re going to educate them on what’s going on. Once we finished the major cities, we will resume again in Montgomery for a big rally. So we are definitely continuing to put the work in. The guys will go back on strike shortly, if they have not come to us to sit down to address the demands and lay out concrete efforts to address and resolve the issues.

TFSR: So just kind of wrapping up, if you could tell listeners where to find out more information about the organizing that you’re doing, as well as any other news sources, social media, that you can think of that are doing a good job of covering this, and especially if they’re getting the direct words of the people behind bars out. I’d love to hear that for the audience.

DC: Okay, awesome. Yes. So you can follow us on every platform @BothSidesOfTheWall on Twitter it’s @BSW_Advocacy. Instagram, it is BothSidesOfTheWall_ . On TikTok it’s BothSidesOfTheWall. You can also visit our website at www.BothSidesOfTheWall.com. All updates will be posted there. You can also contact us by email, and that will be Contact@BothSidesOfTheWall.com

TFSR: Cool. Well, thank you so much for having this chat and for the work that you’re doing and I look forward to a success.

DC: Oh, yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. And stay tuned! We will resume.

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Alfredo Cospito and 41 bis Transcription

La Lima: So, we are two comrades from Rome and based in Rome. We are anarchist comrades and we are part of a solidarity project called La Lima, which is ‘The File.’ It’s an assembly and a solidarity fund to help those who have problem with the law and comrades struggling with with repression.

TFSR: So we’re here to speak about the ongoing and increased repression of anarchists and other radicals in Italy. With a primary focus on support for Alfredo Cospito. Can you please introduce members of the audience to Alfredo, how long he’s been in prison, tell us what he was accused of, and what he claims responsibility for?

La Lima: Alfredo is a longtime anarchist comrade, who is in jail for almost 10 years. He’s been accused in 2016 of having kneecapped, alongside another anarchists comrade Nicola , to have kneecapped Roberto Adinolfi who was the CEO of a Ansaldo Nucleare, an Italian Corporation who holds the nuclear industry in Italy and all over the world. So Nicola and Alfredo claim that their responsibility of this action in the court, stating that they were moved by the nuclear disaster of Fukushima. They found responsible, among the others, the CEO of this corporation, and kind of retribution and restitution of the damage caused by the nuclear waste, all over the world.

Back in 2012, this action, the kneecap of Adinolfi was indicated by a communique signed as FAI-IRF, International Revolutionary Front of the Informal Anarchist Federation. In court they stated the fact that they claimed that not as a part of an organization, but as the recognition of a method that needs to be the one that people all over the world will train their action in this acronym in order to pursue a method, not a formal organization.

Nicola was charged 9 years and Alfredo 10 years for this action, and while they were in jail they were accused of another criminal persecution against anarchists in Italy, which basically happens every year. That is Scripta Manent, the name of the of the operation, it’s a Latin formula. They were accused of several crimes and felonies. This felony arrived during their time in prison on the on the basis of the subversive association of felons. They were charged alongside other comrades of several bombings and of particular action on police precinct facility in Fasano in the northwest of Italy. This police precinct was like a training facility for carabinieri student. So the training facility of carabinieri. We’re talking about an explosive, let’s say, action, like a bombing. These action was also claimed by an acronym FAI-IRF. Yeah. In the claim of this action was was focused on how hateful is the job of police agents, especially regarding their Italian policy on migrants and immigration in Italy. These felonies that arrived regarding this action were dabbled with like terrorism or criminal association. It is to be noticed that this action occurred that night and caused no harm to no one. The explosive device was in a the trash area.

In Italy we have like three steps of judgment in the court. It was clear since the first that the felony was massacre, which in Italian is a strage, and it’s a very particular felony. It was massacre even though there were no harm and there were no death. In the final step of the three steps of the court, the General Attorney made clear that it was to be framed, this massacre, as a political massacre. So direct harm to the security of the Italian state. So that is unprecedented, the final step of the court system said something like that. Then basically that is no longer to be debated, “the fact” that this massacre was a political massacre in itself, but it has just to be discussed in the very final act of the court, how long these comrades will be in jail for. This particular felony, massacre, is connected to a single option of detention which is a long, life sentence. Particularly, ergastolo ostativo, which we are going to explain.

So, thi felony massacre was never actually applied in Italy even back in the so called Lead Years and in Massacre of Bologna in 1980 when 87 people died, not even in Piazza Fontana, which is the famous state massacre of 1969, in which a bomb exploded. We know from our history that another case, Guiseppe Pinelli was accused of having bombed that, and later on killed by the Luigi Calabrese. So another single time in the Italian history was, this massacre arrived in at the final step of the court. Alfredo always stated in his thoughts and in his writings that he throws back the term terrorism, precising the fact that he doesn’t claim terrorism or act indiscriminate against the population in general, or to the innocent people, but only in reference to the State on behalf of the exploited.

Okay, so this is very important, actually. Both Alfredo and Anna, were charged of this massacre, and they stated out loud and clearly they don’t recognize themselves in this term, and they reject this massacre. They reject it and they claim that the the State is actually the first massacre of the exploited. And it’s not their method.

TFSR: What is the article 41 bis of the prison administration act? It now holds a little under 800 prisoners if I understand. Who else is there? I think you’ve already addressed the reasons that the State is giving for why Alfredo would be being sent there.

La Lima: So they article 41 bis is a prison regime. It’s a provision that was introduced in 1975. But first used in 1992 after the bombing of Giovanni Falcone and [Paulo] Borsellino, two judges that were fighting against mafia alongside the Italian state. In the days following the killing of Falcone and Borsellino, nearly 400 prisoners from the Mafia were transferred from Sicily, from Palermo Ucciardone and another top security prisons on the mainland in the prisons of Pianosa, Asinara, and alongside other prison. They were treated with this 41 bis prison regime.

It has actually evolved in time. It’s a regime that is born in the context of emergency and exception. And it was born in this exception, in emergency, but it’s never been canceled. And it’s always been implemented and evolved in a finest way of like torturing people, in what we call actual torture of the prison population. We are going to explain why so and how so. The laws that were born in context of exception and emergencies tend to be later on verified and kept in Italian law. To justify a so-called prison regime, there has to be declared like a common enemy that is perceived like that by the public audience. Of course, the definition of the enemy changes alongside the project and the particular needs of the State in time.

So if in 1992, the common enemy accused of being bad or the people accused to be part of the mafia. It has to be said that actually in application and in the fulfillment of the 41 bis, the vast majority of the responsibility it has to be pointed at left wing governments actually. In 2002, with the left wing government, it was introduced the fact that 41 bis was extended not only to mafia associations, but also to other kinds of felonies including so-called terrorism and political action as armed organization or subversive political organization. In 2005, for the first time, five communist comrades were charged from the organization called the New Red Brigades (Nuove Brigate Rosse), the were charged with 41 bis in prison. One of them committed suicide on October 21, 2009. After she was in for one year in 41 bis, suffering from deep psychological problem connected to this incarceration. Her name was Diana Blaferi [Melatsi]. Three other comrades are still in jail since 2005. So 17 years in 41 bis.

To explain, you can be charged with 41 bis even if you’re not actually charged of it, but just as a preemptive incarceration. You can be on 41 bis with all the punishments, even before having a trial. For four years, and after each two years it has to be reconfirmed or not. What is 41 days in particular? You are basically alone in a cell. It’s a torture regime based on sensorial deprivation. So you’re alone in the cell with a layer of Plexiglas, plastic glass outside of the window, 24/7 with artificial light and no natural light, you have two hours of working time outside of the cell. But it’s with four people decided by the administration and it only lasts these two hours. These two hours are not outside in the yard, but still inside prison facility guarded 24/7.

If that you’re actually socializing with these other four person that you’re permitted to stay with, the administration can remove you from that group in order to not connect and have bonds and links to other people. You only have a visitation per month and it lasts one hour, you are supposed to talk behind the glass and you you’re supposed to talk on the inter-phone. Only kids under 12 years old are allowed to pass that glass. From 12 years old, no one is allowed to go inside, meeting the person in 41 bis regime.

We can imagine the psychological effects that can affect not only the imprisoned person, but also the family. Also, we have to consider the fact that Italy has now chosen Sardinia as the place where the prison with 41 bis regime should be. In particular, it’s another difficult point for the families of the people of the inmates. Because the people in 41 bis are usually from the south. It’s very difficult to to reach Sardinia, which is an island off of the west coast of Italy. It’s very difficult to reach. It’s also another thing to add.

Alfredo is actually now in the prison of Bancali, in Sardinia. That’s another reason why it’s an island difficult to reach and that’s why even that one visiting hour in a month doesn’t actually occur because people cannot reach in time. As family of the inmate, after six months of detention, you can only receive a 10 minute call from the inmate, but the family or the relatives of the inmate have to reach the nearest prison to receive the call there. And only if you didn’t manage to do the visiting hour. Only the close relative actually can meet someone in 41 bis, very close relatives.

No one can actually bring out the voice of someone in detention in 41 bis, not even the lawyers. Even the lawyers, they could be charged of some crimes if they speak out the voice of someone from 7 up to 15 years of detention if you share a message from inside from the voice of the of the person in 41 bis. So there’s a complete censorship, right? The voice is just a metaphor that we say. All correspondences are censored. There’s a censorship on every correspondence and even books or reviews cannot enter. You are only allowed to have books that are actually authorized by the court, the prison administration and it can be suspended anytime. It would have to be authorized, you cannot send a book to someone who is in 41 bis or a review of whatsoever. Even literature or poetry or an actual newspapers, like official newspapers from the from the press had pages cut off. Some pages were turned off in order to not put the person in the position to see what is happening in his particular region, in his particular town when he resided.

Those who control those sections of the jail are people from GOM, which is an acronym for Gruppo Operativo Mobile, or Mobile Unit Operative Unit. They are very famous for the torture accord among the protesters in 2001 in Genoa, the anti G8 protest. There was actually real torture on students protesters, and protesters in general, in a school in Genoa 2001. They are trained in a military way to have not a single drop of empathy with people in front of them and are like pure, torture-robots.

This is all to annihilate your psychological side. We have to imagine that you cannot even put a single photo of your family on the walls of the cell. The goal is actually to annihilate someone completely, because the only way to get out of the 41 bis regime is both to snitch on someone else, and to refute… We say like… it’s a Catholic term, but to deny your history, your political action, not only political goals also if you’re part of the crime gang, you have to deny your past and your membership to the gang. We are talking not only about a political statement, but also a crime gang. You have to give up completely yourself to the state in order to come out of 41 bis.

Why do we call 41 bis form of democratic torture? Because torture reminds us of the Inquisition court, those of the Middle Ages Catholic society, because the heretics, those who deviated from the official doctrine, they were tortured until an abduration or until they would have said something to snitch on others. It was actually excruciating torture, and that led to a kind of opposition at certain times. Democratic times involve something else, which is that the person convicted or inducted, is put in jail, hidden by very high walls, increasingly outside of cities, so that they disappear from the view of people and of the public opinion.

41 bis is the ultimate expression of solitary confinement, the prisoner disappears completely, no longer has relationship with the loved ones, no opportunities arise. Therefore, it is as if they do not exist. The truculent aspect of punishment disappears completely. What remains is sensory deprivation and the annihilation of the individual. Like the Inquisition, the only way out is to abjure or to put someone else in there, so to say snitch. That’s why we call it a democratic form of torture.

Someone say that rather than this, it would be better to have the firing squad, that is the death of the body. The Democratic State does to not shoot with a firing squad, not because it is not in keeping with today’s times or with the very definition of democracy. In fact, with the capital punishment and the killing of the body, the State would not achieve what it really wants, which is the total victory over the person or cooperation. We have said before, repeatedly, and underlined that the person without their relationships, without confronting someone, without being able to hangout or spend time with someone is not a living person, despite the difficulty of socializing that prison itself poses.

In 41 bis, there are about 747 people, 14 are women. Deprivation of relationships is extended to all of them. There are about 100 people in 41 bis with an unappealable life imprisonment, and therefore with the expectation that they will never be able to leave this condition. Imagine what this might mean for Alfredo who spent the previous 10 years of incarceration in a high security section. But, still, with the possibility of meeting other people, anarchist and communist political prisoners. He had the opportunity to confront and intervene in the debate among comrades with letters, writings, publications. He even participated in the addition of two books. Imagine then what it might mean to him to think that he will have to spend his whole life in such a condition, to not live his whole life in such a condition. The punishment he is going to face for so called political massacre could be precisely that of an unappealable life imprisonment, which does not provide for a return to the so called ‘free society’ except through cooperation and abjuration.

Therefore, Alfredo decided to start a hunger strike, he took the opportunity of an appeal to announce it. He has in fact filed an appeal with the court to challenge the total censorship of letters, not a single one arrives. And of course, he self sensors the letter he sends. He has not received any letters since May 5th, so he appealed to the probation judge. The announcement was made by video conference because the attorneys in 41 bis cannot even attend their own hearings in person but with a video call in from the prison that they are being held, with guards around deciding on Judge instruction, when to turn on the microphone and when to have them speak. Alfredo then announced these all out hunger strike against 41 bis and life imprisonment without appeal.

TFSR: So, to my understanding, this is also the culmination of another State of emergency, that of the COVID 19 pandemic that ravaged Italy from early on in 2020. Has the state’s response to the pandemic dovetailed with the circumstances like Alfredo’s or a general increase in police powers?

La Lima: We can say that the period of the COVID Emergency was certainly a social laboratory. Unfortunately, also, a quite successful one. There were so many people who decided to submit to rules that had never been enforced until that moment. It was said that we were all under house arrest, with entry and exit times with the only possibility of going out to work, subject to paper justification that you had to take with you and present and show to the policeman or the military man would ask you for an explanation of your being on the street. We’re alking about people who could not even go walking in the mountains and with police cars patrolling the street with loud speakers repeating to stay home and not go out [as we outside prison dealt with]. That was on scene in Italy.

The feeling for us all was to be in a true state of war, in a state of exception, a state of sanitary emergency that transformed itself into a state of exception due to the war in Ukraine that still is ongoing right now. A passage without any interruption from a state of emergency to another that is useful to discipline the population. The discipling of the population is completely preventive and it is now clear to everyone that it is aimed at the period to come, a period of great crisis of capitalism and the reorganization of geopolitics of exploitation and monopolization of resources. Those who pay for it, and those who are going to pay for it are obviously the exploited ones all over the world.

TFSR: How does Alfredo continue to resist? And how will this limit his and other comrade’s abilities to reach through the bars?

La Lima: Dissent in opposition to mandatory green pass and vaccination for those over 50 years old, was governed in the form of underhanded blackmail. If you didn’t get the vaccine, you couldn’t go to work, and in this regard, let me make an aside: The first people to be subjected to this blackmail were the inmates, who if they didn’t get the vaccine, they will not be able to meet with family members or participate in activities in prison. Once again in prison, the norms that are being experimented with. Those norms will later cross those walls and extend into society.

Despite the mass media hammering propaganda, the dictate of the scientific and technical committees, not a few people began to question the truths of those sources and seek other sources of information and try to oppose something that seemed increasingly absurd. In some context of dissent, predominately attended by the small and petty bourgeoisie, shopkeepers and small business owners or entrepreneurs, obviously with attempts to be co-opted by the far right, comrades still managed to insert themselves by taking away the vital info of the right wingers. These people were mocked and ridiculed, they will called selfish toward the so called united people, and even persecuted because dissent was not provided for that social laboratory that was called political and social management of the emergency.

If this is what happened to segments of the population who dare not to submit to dictates, let’s imagine how the State stands toward anarchism, and especially active anarchism, the one that favors direct action rather than theorization. So we can say that all the most advanced points of social critique, and the practice of that social critique must be absolutely punished and eliminated as a warning to everyone else.

The State power therefore does not only want to get rid of those who declared themselves enemies, but it also it is also warning to everybody. We see these also with respect to the logistics workers who have been hit with extortion charges for labor struggles, they are very much targeted by repression. Same thing for the students crossing the street in an angry way after the death of some of them in a project called Alternanza Sculoa Lovoro which is an alternating school and work, so basically unpaid labor force. In the marches they have been attacked by the police and some of them persecuted and caught up in repressive measures. So it seems that internationally and globally, the State power knows that it’s pushing its luck too far and that everything could get out of hand. It’s trying step by step to zero the opponent voices to avoid the conflicts to come.

TFSR: How can listeners and readers best support Alfredo and other comrades and other anti-authoritarians struggling in Italy?

La Lima: The first step is definitely this: to talk about it. Let people know about Alfredo’s situation and what these democratic regimes are hiding under the carpet. To continue to fight, to never stop being present and trying to get in the way of the murderous policies of the State all over the world. Yes, those are the [real] massacres.