The Mafia Has a Plan to Infiltrate Rome’s Prisons: Bribe The People Applying to Work in Them.

Italian prosecutors say the mafia may have infiltrated prison exams to try to earn sympathizers in the criminal justice system.

Demonstration against the Mafia and the Camorra in memory of the innocent victims in Naples, Italy.
Demonstration against the Mafia and the Camorra in memory of the innocent victims in Naples, Italy.

A few years ago, young Italians probably wouldn’t have lined up around the block to try to secure jobs as prison guards. But now, with 40 percent of Italy’s youth unemployed, competition for the steady income prison work provides has skyrocketed.

And according to prosecutors in Rome, the Mafia may have tried to take advantage of that by inserting themselves into the exam process.

Around 8,000 people,were in the running for around 400 prison guard jobs last month. During the exam period, 88 people were caught hiding answers in their bracelets or phone cases. Others went so far as to use ear pieces, with someone on the other end reading them the answers from outside the room.

Prosecutors at the Rome court say that the exams were printed in Naples, the heartland of the Camorra mafia believed to be behind the rigging. Some 7,000 members of the criminal ring, including 700 top dogs, are currently behind bars. In some instances, they may have sold answers to those competing for the jobs. In others, they may have bribed the test-takers with the answers to ensure special treatment of gang members held in Italian prisons.

The Rome court did not offer other details, but the Italian Justice Ministry — and dozens of protesters who gathered outside of the ministry Tuesday — want the exams to be thrown out.

“Unfortunately, those who deserve jobs often are not the ones who get them,” a protester named Mina told the Guardian on Tuesday.

But the question remains of how those supervising the exams could better prevent cheating in the first place. Maybe Italy could take a page out of India’s book, where widespread cheating plagued the army recruitment process to such an extent that the government made men take the test wearing nothing more than their underwear.

Photo credit: HERMAN LUMANOG/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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