This March Italy's recently appointed Minister of Justice, Marta Cartabia has set up a commission to evoke reform in the country's penal system and put the implementation of restorative justice on the agenda of commission. We were pleased to hear that our member, Grazia Mannozzi, who is a professor at the University of Insubria has been invited as an expert of restorative justice in the commission. We asked Grazia about the implications of the reform proposals for Italy's penal system.
What are the key areas that Minister Cartabia suggests to reform and why is this significant?
The guidelines of Minister's programme range from civil justice to criminal justice. With regard to the latter, they are focused on making the criminal procedural system more streamlined and efficient. Among the themes at the core of the Commission's works there are: the pursuit of balances between the guarantees of due process law; the statute of limitations for the crimes, which is a crucial issue and an important political junction; the probation; and the possibility to implement restorative justice at every stage and level of the proceedings. To achieve these aims, the Commission has opened a careful and constructive dialogue with the various stakeholders, including the professional body of lawyers and the judiciary.
How did restorative justice become a part of the Commission's agenda?
In recent years, the reflection on restorative justice at the governmental level has made significant progress. First, in 2013 a Commission at the Legislative Office of the Ministry of Justice was appointed to draw up proposals for interventions on the criminal sanctions system, and it has shown openness towards restorative justice. In 2015, the incumbent Minister of Justice at the time, Andrea Orlando has launched the "General States of Criminal Execution", within which a committee coordinated by me, was dedicated to "restorative justice, mediation and protection of victims". In 2017, the Minister Orlando appointed a study commission for the elaboration of legislative law projects. This included restorative justice for adults and minors. The Parliament then accepted only the indications on restorative justice concerning the juvenile justice system, but not those regarding the adults’ one.
This year, with Minister Cartabia, restorative justice is back at the centre of the debate and the Commission currently in charge is dealing with it.
What changes are on table regarding the better implementation of restorative justice?
The proposals are remarkable: at least three essential indications emerge from the programme of the Minister Cartabia. First, it is time to give full implementation to restorative justice. Second, restorative justice should be promoted at any phase and stage of the proceeding. Third, it is necessary to overcome the prison as the only effective response to crime. It is clear that "developing and systematising the experiences of restorative justice" - as stated in the guidelines of the programme - requires preconditions: promoting the spread of restorative justice centres throughout the territory; and guaranteeing an adequate standard of initial and ongoing training for mediators and facilitators.
How will the commission work; and what will happen with your recommendations?
The Commission is committed to address all the issues on the agenda. The atmosphere seems serene and collaborative to me, despite the different points of view and the different sensitivities. With the President Giorgio Lattanzi and in the Vice Presidents Ernesto Lupo and Gianluigi Gatta the Commission has an extraordinary leadership.
The work is very tight with daily meetings of the subcommittees and plenary meetings on Saturday mornings. The outcome of the work consists in the development of delegation criteria for the Italian legislator. It will then be up to Parliament to assess whether and how to accept our proposals.
How were you invited to the commission?
First, I would like to say without any rhetoric, that I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate aimed at implementing restorative justice. I do it with a spirit of service towards my country and with the constant willingness to listen and learn.
I have been involved in restorative justice for many years, mainly as a lecturer, at the University of Insubria, where I founded a research centre on restorative justice and conflict mediation. Various mediators and facilitators collaborate in the centre with the aim to promote research and dissemination of knowledge. I have also written a lot on the subject, for example the first Italian textbook on restorative justice. I believe that these experiences gained over time and my background working in the previous legislative commissions for the reform of the criminal justice system can explain my role in this Commission.
What does your presence mean for the restorative justice movement in Italy?
The answer is not straightforward. As a professor, I have been writing, teaching, training people (mediators, social workers), and initiated projects, such as “COnTatto. Reparative plots in the community”. That project aimed to encourage the city of Como to become a restorative city. This a difficult goal and the outcomes were uncertain for us when we committed ourselves to pursue them. Yet, it has borne some fruit.
I hope that by working with commitment and passion for restorative justice in the Commission, with the support of many authoritative scholars that I have known above all thanks to the initiatives of the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) and the collaboration with the American colleagues, can offer a meaningful contribution. The growth of restorative justice requires a cultural work, a network effort, which no one can do alone. This is the reason for the support of the EFRJ is so important to many European scholars and practitioners.
In the recent years the EFRJ has been actively collaborating with Italian restorative justice professionals and organisations across the country in many ways. The first first Restorative City international seminar in Como (January, 2019) linked to the COnTatto project you mentioned, our 2017 Summer School also in Como; or our planned conference Sassari can be examples. Do think that this work helped to promote restorative justice in Italy, and possibly contributed to the minister's recent decision about putting it on the agenda of the reform commission?
I absolutely believe so. The EFRJ is an important reality, a fundamental support. It allows scholars to know and confront each other, to learn from the experience through mutual exchange, to plan joint research, to develop standards, to consolidate the commitment of individuals through the maturation of a sense of belonging.
Policy choices at the legislative level are conditioned by culture, research, good practices and expectations of the community. A body such as the EFRJ confers also scientific authority and legal legitimacy to the work of individuals. And I believe that this is perceived at the institutional level.
Grazia Mannozzi is a professor of Criminal Law and Restorative Justice and Victim-offender Mediation at the University of Insubria (Como - Italy), where she is also the Director of the Restorative Justice and Mediation Study Centre (CeSGReM) and of the Master in Restorative Justice and Humanistic Mediation. For the year 2019, she is Chair of the Working Group on Restorative Cities established at the European Forum for Restorative Justice. Her publications have been translated into several languages. In 2017, she published the first Italian handbook of restorative justice, titled “La giustizia riparativa. Formanti, parole e metodi”, Giappichelli, Torino (with G. A. Lodigiani).
The interview was conducted by Bálint Juhász.