“Prisoners” is a journey into Italian prisons, the second chapter after the South American ones of the book “Encerrados”. Prisons are the mirror of a country’s society, from small dramas to major economic and social crises. In these non-places for five years I visited 10 Italian prisons and I noticed how people deprived of their freedom try to rebuild habits, affections and find an alternative for the future that often doesn’t exist. I entered maximum security prisons, where Camorra and mafia affiliates are locked up, such as Poggioreale in Naples and Ucciardone in Palermo. I visited the realities of penal colonies, where prisoners are partially free and can work outside prisons, such as in Isili in Sardinia. I immersed myself in the dimension of women’s prisons: in the ancient monastery of Venice; in San Vittore in Milan and in Rebibbia for women in Rome. I’ve been in small size prisons and huge prisons. I was able to observe new structures, such as the “Capanne” prison in Perugia or small institutes such as in Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi. Most of all, however, I was in close contact with the prisoners: I had lunch in their cells, I listened to their stories, I shared their tears and their laughter. We lived moments that seemed everyday. This work is also the result of these moments spent together. In these three years I have had the opportunity to get to know the world of Italian prisons from within and the idea that I have come up with is one of enormous loneliness. The detainees are in permanent contact with each other, yet they are always alone, at any time of the day.
Defined as “the poor man’s drug” due to its low cost (a dose can cost less than a dollar), paco is a poor quality and extremely harmful product: the processing waste from coca intended for European and North American markets is mixed with various chemicals, kerosene, glue, rat poison, even powdered glass, and distributed in the poorest neighborhoods of Latin America, where the main buyers are minors.
Smoked like crack, paco has a very short-lived effect and leads to addiction in an equally short time. In no time, addicts find themselves needing 50 or even 100+ doses a day.
In the first years of the millennium, following the economic crisis in Argentina, the consumption of paco in increased by 300% in the country, creating an army of very young “walking dead” (as those who use it are called) willing to do anything to have their share, with devastating human, social and health effects for entire communities.
I worked for over 14 years on this project, traveling around South America and telling who the kids who smoke paco are: their environment, their families, where they buy the dose and how hard someone tries to get out of this terrible addiction that brings to death.