Alfano announced that first on the agenda was the construction of 47 new jail annexes to boost the system’s capacity by 21,749 units.

The new cell blocks would cost a total 600 million euros....

....To depressurize jails in the meantime, the justice minister promised new legislation allowing home detention for inmates with less than one year to serve on their sentence and probation with community service for anyone sentenced to less than three.

Finally, he promised to hire some 2,000 new guards needed to oversee Italy’s swelling prison population, which hit a post-war high last year of over 65,000 detainees.

Italy’s aging jails, most of which built in the 19th century, were designed to accommodate just 43,000 prisoners.

Experts have blamed the overcrowding for a record 71 prison suicides in 2009 and another four in the first week of January.