March 11, 2020

Italy’s justice minister says 12 prison inmates died of drug overdoses and 16 others escaped during riots at more than two-dozen prisons sparked by new coronavirus containment measures.

The riots on Sunday and Monday broke out after corrections authorities suspended or limited family visits for two weeks to prevent the spread of infections.

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While briefing the Italian Parliament on the prison riots, Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede said the unrest involved some 6,000 prisoners at facilities around the country.

Bonafede confirmed on Wednesday that 16 inmates broke out of a medium-security prison in Foggia and remained at large. The 12 prisoners who died overdosed after breaking into prison infirmaries.

The minister says 40 prison guards were injured.

Anxiety about the virus and overcrowding fueled the protest over the family visit decision.

The Italian Justice Ministry ministry says 100,000 face masks have been allocated to protect prison guards, personnel and inmates alike.

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