AIFS students studying abroad in Rome recently had the unique experience to visit Rebibbia Prison. Led by Professor Simoncini, they learned about the Italian penitentiary and criminal justice system, and were able to compare it with that of other countries.
This class visit to Rebibbia was an eye-opening experience for students — many criminal justice majors abroad — and was fascinating for those interested in international relations or political science, too.
Four of the students shared their feedback on their experiences and reflected on what they learned:
“I was shocked by how different it was from an American prison. The US prison system is hypothetically supposed to be about reform, but it’s more punishment based than anything. People who go to prison typically end up right back in prison after they’re released. Here in Italy it seems to be more about reform. It was definitely more relaxed, allowing the prisoners to wear normal clothes and basically go wherever they wanted. The prison also seemed to be actually helping the inmates better themselves to get jobs outside of prison or at least be better citizens, which is amazing that the system cares enough to try. American inmates always seem unhappy and tend to pick up more criminal habits while in prison, but in Italy it seems the inmates are content and actually want to become better people.’’
— Grier Q., Georgia State University
“Rebibbia was probably the most unique experience I will have while studying abroad in Rome. I shook hands with a man who murdered someone and he was one of the friendliest guys I’ve ever met. I went into it expecting to get harassed by inmates and to be frightened and by the end I felt completely opposite. Listening to Constantine play his violin almost brought tears to my eyes, you could see how his past mistakes and being in Rebibbia has taught him and every other inmate we met so much about themselves and how to rise above their mistakes and bad decisions that led to their incarceration.”
— Maeghan M., Miami University
“Visiting Rebibbia State Prison is an eye opening and humbling experience. We received a glimpse of what life is like for the men inside those walls. Although outlets such as music, cooking, and education help to past the time, these men want to encourage others not make the kinds of mistakes that landed them in Rebibbia.”
— Paradise S., Georgetown College
“As a criminal justice major, this was not the first time that I have visited a corrections facility. Going into the prison I thought I had an idea of what I was going to see. Once we were there we learned that the objective of the prison system is to help reform the prisoners. Even though they are sent to prison as punishment for a crime, they are treated humanely and with respect. They are given opportunities to work and get college degrees. The prisoners live very similar to how they do on the outside. They wear regular street clothes and are able to move around the prison freely. When we were there, it was as if we were visiting their home; and we were welcomed in with open arms. We were fed pizza made by the inmate chefs, got life advice (and cookies) from a murderer, and had a drug trafficker play a moving rendition of the Schindler’s List theme on the violin for us. This idea of what I thought I was going to see was greatly challenged, as it was nothing like I thought it would be. Visiting the prison was one of the most eye-opening and unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful to Richmond [in Rome] for arranging the visit to the prison for us, it’s something I will never forget.”
— Megan S., California Lutheran University
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By this picture you couldn’t even tell that I was inside a prison, which is the point in Italy… Today was such an incredible experience, I met another Luigi (the officer in the picture) who told us the point of prison is to teach people how to be apart of society and make a positive impact and to find the good in everyone… Wish American prisons were anything like this! . . . . If you’re still reading I’m going to talk a bit more about my experience 😏 So I got to meet and chat with people who were murders, international drug dealer, burglars… But they acted and dressed normal, and they were even treated well some having the opportunity to cook in there rooms, have tvs and such also even smoke *gasp* On top of that there was a church, music studio, a school and other cool amentities, for those who were well behaved. There was also a super nice kitchen there they mad good meals for catering and the homeless, but not for the prisoners only selected prisoners worked here. It was also where we had some pizza, it was the best pizza I’ve had in Rome sad it had to be in a prison, but great things come rarely 😥😅 After we checked out the school and heard some motivational advice from a sometime who committed homicide, saying basically you appreciate things in life when the worse happens 🙌🏻
Interested in spending a semester, academic year, summer, or J-Term with AIFS in Rome? Click here to learn more! If you have a passion for criminal justice, be sure to take a look at our Criminal Justice in Rome and London multi-destination study abroad summer program.