More than 60,000 people are currently detained in Italy’s prisons. Of those, around one in 20 are women, one in 100 are juveniles, and some one in three are foreign prisoners.
The jail featured in the documentary on the outskirts of the city of Verona houses several hundred prisoners including many from North Africa – serving sentences for a range of crimes, from drug trafficking to robbery to murder.
Filmed entirely inside the jail over three years, Double Exile is the story of three men and a woman from North Africa whose dreams of a new life abroad ended behind bars. With rare access to both inmates and the prison regime, the film focuses on prisoners from Morocco and Tunisia who arrived in Italy hoping for a new life, only to descend into criminal behaviour and incarceration.
One Tunisian tells how he began using drugs at the age of 18 in nightclubs. Soon he was selling narcotics to a few friends and before long he was a dealer, extravagantly displaying the trappings of sudden wealth, fast cars and cash aplenty.
“I made a lot of money and back in Tunisia, people looked up to me,” he says. ” I arrived in prison, knowing nothing about it.”
Now more than two years into his sentence, he is still coming to terms to the daily grind of taking orders from prison guards.
“I never imagined I’d have to take orders … Prison teaches perseverance and dedication,” he says.
Another Moroccan recalls being smuggled into Spain before travelling to Italy. There he too became a drug dealer and lived the high life – wine, women and song every night – before his inevitable arrest.
“Europeans in prisons in Arab countries wouldn’t be abandoned by their home countries. But our countries don’t care about us. We pay doubly for our mistakes,” he says. “The laws here aren’t in our favour.”
Inarguably the most shocking case featured in Double Exile is that of a Moroccan man who disapproved of his 18-year-old daughter dating an Italian man in his 30s. A fight broke out and the father stabbed his daughter, inflicting multiple wounds on the young woman. She died at the scene.
Double Exile gives a rare insight into life in an Italian prison, a closeted environment where young North African men and women are jailed whenever their new lives abroad spiral into serious crime.
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