BEHIND BARS – Transcript (EN)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Following the transcript in English Language of the inter.doc production BEHIND BARS:


First I was brought into a police station, Carabinieri
where they had cells and I was left in there
for a night. I’ve asked at least 30 times for a lawyer,
they just smiled at me.
I shouted 3 hours for some water.
The cell was concrete. Concrete the floor
and concrete the bed.
No linen, no pillow, nothing.
A hole in the floor as a bathroom.
In the morning they handcuffed me and
the brought me to court.
At court, I was brought into a small cell on the side
of the court room and there were two people
in front of me. So the proceeding started.
And then it was my turn.
Just before I saw that there was just one lawyer.
I didn’t see anybody else and
she was talking as a lawyer for the other
black young man and as she passed him
I said: “Hello, do you know where my lawyer is?”
She looked at me and said:
“You don’t have a lawyer? Am I the lawyer for everybody today?”
And then she left. At some point the police opened the cell door
and brought me on the side of the court.
I sat. The judge was an elderly man with glasses
who looked really bored. The questioning
consumed one minute max.
And the judge left for his office in the back to,
I think, to discuss, decide.
An hour or so later the black man was told that he was free.
And me, I was read by the judge a long… he read out all those papers.
He read this very quickly in Italian. I didn’t understand anything.
I understood words but not really what was said.
And then people started to stand up in the courtroom and leave and
the female lawyer also was about to leave,
was walking out and I said to her:
“Sorry, what happened?”
And she came to me with a bored face and said:
“1 year, 4 months, 20 days”.
And I swear, I didn’t do anything.
I got one year, four months and twenty days
in what they call Europes worst prison, Poggioreale
or more commonly known under the name “The Hell of Naples”.
For resistance to police, which never happened.
The policeman apparently damaged his hand because
he banged with his fist on my, on the motor of my car,
the car and hurt himself and I think he decided:” I stay
a few weeks at home and I say that was because of him.”
So for resistance to police, which never happened,
I didn’t do that,
I was sentenced without lawyer,
in a way that was definitely against the law, because
an accused has to get a lawyer
and he has to understand his sentence.
And if his Italian is not good enough,
which I told the judge, then
he has to get a translator.
All of that didn’t happen.
So from the court I was brought to prison.
The police car speeded through Naples and
at some point I saw how he moved left
and there was a big, big wall and
a big iron door and it slowly opened,
the car drove in – and I was brought into the hell.
That is how it started.


Fear of death is one of the worst feelings inside.
People don’t talk about it too much because
it’s just lingering in the air.
So, if we see each other outside
we say hello, good morning, how are you.
But we don’t talk much about this fear.
Instead it’s here. It’s always there.
It’s always present.
The idea that one will spend his last day,
the last day of his life, behind bars and
will die in there.
Dead man walking is not just some words but
it’s reality.
At least for some. The ones I met
that are in there for years
5 years, 8 years, 10 years
and some of them that still have many years to do.
So, I often thought I just want to get out here
I want to make it. Please God,
give me that chance, give me that last chance
I don’t want to die in here.
And when I left, on the day of my departure,
when they opened the cell door finally and
let me out,
when I said goodbye to some people
in the cells around me,
I remember one man that shook my hand
a big, strong man but
he just had tears flowing down. He said
I wish you all the best – and he was crying.
This fear of dying in there
is a big fear and
if one thinks about death,
there is a final death when one stops
to breathe and
and maybe gets here in this graveyard
in the cemetery
or there is also mental death where
when one goes nuts, when one,
when one is not able to live a healthy life anymore,
and death by terminal illness –
so these whole feelings,
all these feelings they where in the air.
And often when voluntaries, nuns from the church
priests and guards
said me: “Just be patient, just wait.”
Relax, wait. I thought by myself: “It’s easy for them,
they can go out in the evening,
they got family,
they can see the light of freedom,
they can leave this place,
and come back – not as we
that have to stay.”
Until one day we get told to leave.
And there is another thing in prison which is quite hard
because it’s not so apparent.
All these court-papers.
You know, people get called and then
get those papers, every day there are long lines
of people getting new papers.
Until your last day
until the day you finally get released
you don’t know what new papers may
arrive. Maybe you may have done something
for some, that now has been coming to the light
or you may have done nothing
or you may be innocent
and they may just bring up another charge
against you and you may think
you go out in two days
but then those two days might become
another three years.
So this fear of dying in there
of uncertainty
of not being able to defend yourself
yes, you got a lawyer, but
the lawyer is, first of all, part of the system
he has to comply with rules
not make people to angry
judges and all that
and then there is a state prosecutor
and of course there is the judge
and the judge judges, not
somebody else.
So you feel kind of defenceless
in there.
Behind bars.
in prison.
And, so, deep inside I just felt one wish every minute
every second of my stay behind bars:
“Please God, let me out alive.
Let me out healthy and
let me keep my brain and my body sane
at least to some point and
let me go out alive.”
And it happened.
It happened to me.
And often I dream or have flashbacks
about the people I left in there when I
left who don’t know if
that will happen to them.
Or if they will be thrown into the
graveyard inside, in the basement
right in Poggioreale
And not be able to see freedom as I have been
gracefully able to do.


Time is a big problem in prison. Doing your time.
But the problem with time is: It’s like in a good or bad
movie in the cinema.
If it’s a good movie and you’re not bored
those two hours just flash by.
But if it’s a bad movie and you have to stay in there
for some reason
it goes slow.
The problem with prison is that boredom, thoughts,
time. A second becomes a minute
a minute an hour
an hour a day
a day a month
a month a year.
It’s so relative.
And as the day of supposed freedom approaches
time seems to stand still.
The second just does not pass.
Thus doing ones time is more than just the time
one does. It’s
ten, twenty times the
time one would feel it is outside.
Its’ just hard to survive
every second
every day
and sometimes, I was writing a lot in prison
to keep alive,
in my mind in my thoughts,
keep healthy
and I wrote, I wrote, I wrote
and it was still the same day
it was still Sunday
and it was still lunch
and the evening didn’t come
and the night and
so… surviving time
is a mental difficulty in prison.
Just surviving the time.
Getting out alive.
And not going crazy.
Staying calm. And living with that feeling
to be unable to do anything.
One man said to me: “Once you’re in it’s too late. Just wait.
Until you can go out through the door.”
Through the front door.
This is true.
Once you’re in it’s too late.
Just wait.
Do your time.


Only when one is behind bars one realises what freedom
really means.
I thought a lot about that.
Freedom, when we are with nine people on 15 square meters
behind iron bars
20 to 23 hours a day
only to be able to go out into the courtyard and
walk in a space of maybe a 150 meters
How much can freedom be reduced?
So, for example some inmates they
where allowed to work
and so they were walking in the hallway
cleaning, serving food, other things to do
and they had comparative more freedom than
the ones behind the bars.
So what is freedom?
And if one is out one has much more freedom.
One can go maybe from country to country
if one is allowed
and has the money to travel.
And the time.
Then again we are all kind of prisoners
if you can call it such
on this earth,
the only planet we have.
So, again, freedom is limited.
As long as we can’t travel to the moon or to the mars.
But in Poggioreale freedom is very limited.
There was a black man who
was cleaning outside.
A young black man,
innocent like me,
accused of having beaten seven police
and even one woman and
turned one policeman perpetually mad,
unable to work,
he said to me: “How can I do that? Look at me.”
But still he’s got 3 1/2 years of prison.
So he said to me quite often:
“Freedom is the most important thing in life”.
When I cam out my daughter invited me to
a dinner and while I was eating the pizza
and sipping on some nice red wine
I suddenly had a flashback
and said to her and and her boyfriend
sitting next to her:
“You know, it’s so amazing when one is out.
One can actually choose where to go.
I could leave this place.
Or come back.
And if I went out of this door
I could choose if I go left or right.”
And she looked up at me and said:
“Papi, stop it. It’s so boring what you’re telling us”.


So, the psychiatrist in prison, he was not a stupid man.
I’m not a big fan of psychiatrists.
But he was in war,
he worked in the army,
so he must have had, seen his share of traumatised
people. So, yeah, we had sometimes quite
good talks, sometimes he even offered me a cigarette
and soon before my release I said to him:
“It’s crazy, one when one is in prison, one is in a place like this in prison
where one has very, very limited
freedom one realises what freedom is worth.”
And he said to me: “Yes, that’s true.”
I think we humans we often
don’t realise what we have before we lose it.
This is a bad thing.
Maybe health, maybe being young, maybe certain luxuries
which we take for granted.
Some people are afraid of leaving prison
after a long stay. Because it’s just overwhelming.
All the choices one has.
Even going to a supermarket and seeing 20000 things.
To buy.
Or deciding how to program ones day.
Where to go. What to do.
Who to meet.
All the people.
Survival outside.
All that.
I thought enough about all that. The good thing is,
if you’re inside, behind bars, you got lots of time to think.
And so, when I came out, it was OK.
I felt happy.
Yes, the choice in a supermarket felt overwhelming.
And I spent the next 3-4 months to try everything out
that I didn’t have in there.
So I’ll have this chocolate bar,
I have this meal,
I have this juice,
I have some wine.
Buy my preferred tobacco.
And such.
Do things i couldn’t do. Walk.
Being in nature.
Talk to people.
So, freedom still feels to me like
the most essential thing in life.
Even before having a shelter and food.
Freedom is the most essential thing in life.
I remember the young black man.
And he is most probably still in there
for quite some time.
Innocent or culpable –
the system does not care.
Permanently or temporarily deleted numbers.
That is what we were in there.
And I think that more and more
in this society
that is what we always are.
A birth number
a old age number
a social security number
a military number
a staff number
a hospital patient number
an inmate number
a grave number
just numbers in a system.
Useless eaters
like the elite says.
Are we?


Poggioreale had something they were calling medicine.
Medicine consisted of pain pills.
You feel sick – get a pain pill.
You’re dying – get a pain pill.
Your arm is broken, have a pain pill.
There was not much else.
And if things went bad,
when inmates were very lucky, they got brought in time
into the prison hospital.
But, as I heard from other inmates, the prison hospital
was not a real hospital.
They just called it like that.
Basically, they were the same pills.
And a bit more of medical attention.
And I’ve seen inmates there for many years
which were seriously sick.
Had tumors
Sometimes very visible.
Blown up here or there.
Not able to walk.
Where their lawyer applied many times to the judge
to put them in a real hospital.
And the judge just said: “No”.
So I saw people left in there to die.
Is this right?
I don’t think so.
An inmate broke my arm
and a few ribs.
After asking the doctor many times
I got brought into an X-ray.
They made and X-ray of me and
for the next 10 months absolutely nothing happened.
Two teeth fell off, half.
Were completely broken.
The made me again, after 3 months,
an X-ray and
nothing happened.
Everybody knew that in Poggioreale there
is no medicine.
No real medicine.
Something that I found really discouraging
is to see that actually


the Italian system is broke.
A prisoner, an inmate, costs the Italian taxpayer
lots of money each day.
Each month. Each year.
And, at least according to my calculations,
and according to the information I have,
about 5 to 6 million Euros disappear
a year.
Every single year.
Just in Poggioreale.
I made a calculation.
The food, the work, the administration
security, renovations – very small –
the work, some work given to prisoners,
transport, all of that,
if you remove this cost from what the taxpayer pays
for the over 3000 inmates in Poggioreale
you got over 5 million Euros
each year that are not accounted for.
Where does the money go?
“Prison is a business”
the young black man repeated to me nearly every day
and this is true.
But prison is a business on the shoulders of
the inmates.
And also of the people working in prison
the guards, the doctors, the psychiatrists, the administration.
Because they also feel bad.
Whatever you say, the answer is always:
“We have no money.”
But where does the money go?
Prison is also a business because
a whole industry lives from it.
Not only the people working in prison
but also the judges,
their offices,
the state prosecution,
the lawyers
Even the lawyers.
I met some good lawyers –
and I met a lot of bad ones.
I remember meeting a lawyer and
the first thing he said to me
is: “How much money do you have?
I accept payment by Western Union.
You need to send me 5000 Euros – and before I wont do
anything for you.”
I said OK.
Thank you – good bye.
What else should I do?
In prison one always needs to be polite.
So there is a whole system behind prison.
A whole system that makes money,
money that is made on suffering.
Okay, I mean,
I met murderers and
and killers and bank robbers.
And organised crime members.
I am not saying that they are nice people.
I’m not saying that they are not criminals.
I also met innocents.
I met people that were…
I remember one guy, one man from Morocco.
Who was caught on the street with 3.5 grams of Haschisch.
3 1/2 grams of a soft drug.
Is not a lot.
He got 3 years and 9 months.
There are two questions here:
One. What does society win if they take
one man with a very small amount of
a soft drug on the street?
While at the same time cargo ships
with tons and tons and tons of the same stuff
are in the sea every night.
I don’t want to go too deep into the subject, but
basically the big criminal families they
work together with government, police… so
their ships they just go by, nobody
controls them.
And then they take the small man on the street
and the taxpayer has to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros
for that man.
Yes, prison is a business.
And I think in a prison like Poggioreale
in Naples, in the South of Italy, the largest federal prison
in Italy, you get the picture well.
That prison is big business.


False friends.
I didn’t have so many friends in my life. But when I
got to prison
I, as many others in there, realised
how many false friends I have.
One friend, I knew him since the age of seven
for more than 45 years
he stole my money in prison, I mean
he, my mother, she is
an old woman now
and she is in an elderly home
I managed by asking other inmates for
a stamp and paper and a pen
and finally I managed to send her a letter
the first she didn’t receive but the second
apparently yes and, so, I also send a friend
of mine, this friend a letter, and he
went to my mother
she gave him money
for me to send to me
and he never sent it.
He just used it for himself.
It’s just one example but
most inmates had many examples for that.
How many friends they had outside
to cook food for them
to have beers and wine
and have a nice time
and how few friends
they suddenly had once behind bars.
So, many people in there felt alone.
Many people in there didn’t have friends.
And they sent letters and letters
and tried to reach them
to no avail.
Nobody wanted to come and visit them.
Nobody wanted to give them any kind of support.
Or let them stay at their home.
Some time.
So, in most cases
all those friends we think we have
judge based on relative situations and
once you’re not in a good situation anymore
they are gone.
This makes you harder.
When you get out.
You don’t want any false friends anymore.
You’ll take care of the good people
and you forget about the useless ones.
This is a story about prison too.


Prison, they say, is a school for life.
I often thought about the question why.
Is it a school for life because it’s hard?
Because you have to be very awake to survive this experience?
Because of the confinement?
Because of sadness.?
Of suffering?
Or is it a school
because prison tends to breed criminals?
I am now 53 years old and
I have not committed any crimes in my life.
This is just what I’m saying.
You can believe me or not.
In prison I’ve… I am a curious man so
I’ve been curious when I was out
all these years
and also in order to mentally
survive I’ve staid curious inside bars.
Behind bars.
So I learned a lot about crimes.
I’ve learned from organised crime members
I’ve learned from murderers,
I’ve learned from bank robbers,
from lock-pickers.
I’ve learned from lots of different criminals.
Just by talking. We talked about the weather.
We talked about cooking – a lot.
We talked about experiences in life.
We talked about politics.
And sometimes we also talked about crimes.
It didn’t make me a criminal.
At least not yet.
Because one difficulty after prison is
how to survive
in the world.
The world does not say hello
you’re out.
Here, get another chance in life.
The world is more prone to say
“Oh, what happened in that time,
where have you been?”
And if on any CV you point out that you have
been in prison, you can imagine what happens.
So, I remember once I was waiting for
the X-ray appointment.
And next to me on a chair was a young man
well dressed, well made hair.
So we started talking,
I asked him:
“Are you from a family?”
And he said:
“Yeah, a big family.”
You know what that means in Naples.
“And why are you here?”
“Oh, bank robbery. 12 years I got.”
I smiled.
“And you know, I played a bit like an actor in a movie.
I was shooting around.”
He seemed quite proud of that.
“So, are you OK in here?”,
I asked him.
He said, yeah, yeah, great.
“The family sends me 500-600 Euros a month.
Takes care of my family.”
Ok, I said, and what you’ll do when you’re out?
“You’ll look for work?”
And he said to me:
“No. I’ll just do the same as before.
What should I do?” He looked at me.
“What options do I have?”
And I asked him:
“And what happens if you’re back in for another 12 years
or more?”
He said, I don’t care.
“It doesn’t matter to me.
Inside or outside.”
So, in prison you meet innocents, small time criminals
people that show remorse,
and you meet what you would call
career criminals.
People that are just on the other side of the fence.
The black side of the system.
Who just have a criminal mind.
It’s interesting, because
even guards are strange sometimes in there.
I got one guard, when he learned that I worked a lot for
banks and I’m Swiss he said
“Look, just give me 2 or 3 account numbers
and I pay you the best lawyer in the world and you
will be out tomorrow.”
First I just smiled at him and
you know it is better not to get into argumentation
specially with police in prison.
But he kept on, every single day he
asked me the same question.
And said, oh please, give me some account numbers
you will be out tomorrow.
And, you know, it was half worded in a
kind of joke but
it wasn’t a joke.
Reality is that quite a lot of guards
in there are actually jealous of some of the prisoners.
Specially the ones in organised crime. Because
they don’t have to work.
They got good money in prison.
They can buy nice food.
Nice clothes.
Nice shoes.
And they, the guards, they walk around
in kind of crappy clothes.
And they have to work for kind of crappy salary.
So temptation is always here.
Temptation for guards to become criminals,
temptation for innocents to commit a crime
later, once they are out.
Maybe also some temptation of criminals to
become better citizens.
While talking I heard all the different opinions.
But mostly, and specially in a prison like Poggioreale,
where the return rate is of – what I learned – 80 percent
you can call prison a school of life
but in Poggioreale
I think it’s mainly a school of crime.


In prison
you have a lot of dark times.
Of blue.
You spend a lot of time in thoughts.
Lying on the bed in your cell
full of people.
Looking out through the bars and
trying to glimpse a piece of sky between walls.
Even if it is so small.
Enjoying a cigarette.
Because you got some tobacco by luck.
Having a good conversation outside in the courtyard.
So there are a lot of dark times in prison.
And it is not a place where you can
tell your worries to anybody.
Because everybody is worried.
So you stay alone with your thoughts.
And in order to survive dark times
you need to be strong.
Strong inside.
I found that in a situation where you
have no outside freedom
the freedom inside
is essential for survival.
It’s about developing ones inner world.
Luckily before my only time behind bars I’ve learned
techniques like meditation, lucid dreaming
shamanic techniques, I learned quite a lot about
how my brain works.
So I combined all those techniques
made of them a daily routine.
This helped me a lot.
Also choosing the people I talk to.
Surrounding myself with positivity.
With strong people.
People that survive.
When I had some real things I could cook
and somebody sponsored a gas and a cooker
and I had a pan
I spent a lot of time cooking
for other people in the cell.
Made the best out of it.
Learned how to brush my teeth.
Learned how to take a shower well.
Learned how to wash my clothes by hand efficiently.
Learned how to sleep in the night
tell my brain not to worry.
Asking myself always the same questions.
“Do you have warm?”
“Is it raining on your head?”
“Do you feel pain in your body?”
So, if those 3 questions I could answer I could easily answer with no
what did my brain have to worry about?
And this staying in the very moment
not worrying about the future
not regretting the past
after some months which were really hard
helped me to stay positive.
And to survive.
Developing my inside world.
My universe inside.
Because we all have a universe inside.


On my first day in prison
I was just shocked.
How the people were.
The craziness in the air.
The surroundings. Everything grey.
And dark.
No flowers. No plants. No nature. Nothing.
So the first few months I’ve spent in a suicidal mood.
Always trying to find strings, ropes
and ways and…
Put a plastic bag on my head, trying to stop breathing.
I didn’t want to live anymore.
A was allowed to talk some hours a day in this hallway.
Between the cells.
And in my first tract there was a window
which led outside and you could see a park in Naples
and I kept watching and watching.
And imagining I could leave.
Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow.
Just waiting for a call.
And they tell me you can go.
Then there were some Arabs in the cell.
They hit me, they beat me up
in the bathroom.
Usually they take you in the bathroom
so the guards cannot see that.
As if they would care.
They beat me up, 4 young men.
Because for some reason
they thought I was gay.
Well, I’m not. But if I would
have been what would have been the problem?
So, the officials put me in another cell
where there were people from Naples.
And they said, we don’t want you here because you
are a foreigner.
We want people from our city.
So I had to leave again.
And this whole being thrown out of cells and moving
around and being treated badly
made me more and more stressed out.
And afraid.
And got me into a difficult mental situation.
And in the 3rd cell there were Russians
one a young murderer,
very aggressive,
and one a career criminal
and one a car stealer
And so those 3 Russians and one Pakistani and
I think the other one was from Romania
they beat me up,
the 5 of them,
in the middle of the night
in the bathroom
and then naked they,
on my feet,
they got me back to the cell
and the whole tract was watching.
And then I came into a 4th cell
and it was even worse.
These were the first 2 months.
They were horrible.
I was beaten, and accused and
treated badly.
And didn’t have any money.
Any clothes.
No visits. No friends. No family.
This was hard.


There are so many things to say
about prison experience.
Maybe also that even
if Poggioreale
is seen as the worst prison of Europe
it’s true what a few inmates told me:
That prison is prison.
In Switzerland
some people complain that prisons are too nice.
They are like hotels.
Nice bed. Television.
Single rooms.
Everybody is allowed to work.
Make some money for when outside.
But prison is still prison.
I think this is not wrong.
Prison is hard in itself.
Because it’s not like a hotel.
In a hotel you’re a guest.
In prison you’re an inmate.
A hotel you can leave.
And they even make you leave if you don’t pay.
In prison you can’t.
Until your day of release.
But all the things I was talking about
my experience in Poggioreale,
the hell of Naples,
in South Italy
don’t make it real.
Maybe it’s like my daughter said
when I was trying to explain to her
that freedom is the most important thing in life.
That it just sounds boring,
not boring because
the experience is so light and easy,
but just because it’s not possible to explain.
What happens with you inside.
I saw strong, big men
going mad.
Not in a nice way,
not in a good way,
but just going mad.
I saw men crying.
I saw men in difficult situations.
And physically.
But I always think the worst thing is if
mentally things don’t work out.
So if you lose your mind
it’s always a bad thing.
But in prison it’s even worse.
So, I managed to survive this experience.
And I tried to tell as clearly
and tried to explain what happened to me in
there and what made me sad.
And how I managed to survive.
But in the end it’s an experience everybody
has to see and feel for himself.
To understand.
To understand why society
should not make prison torture
should not make prison
places where people suffer more
than the necessary.
Because being in prison,
losing your freedom,
and maybe more if you’re innocent,
but even if you did something bad,
is hard.
So, society should be
with their deleted numbers,
temporarily or definitely deleted numbers.
Should make sure they get a chance when they are out.
Should make sure they get
a chance to survive inside.
This is all.
Thank you.

I'm a journalist, press photographer, filmmaker, author, publisher and technology expert @, currently living in Lausanne, Switzerland and London, United Kingdom.

Published by


I'm a journalist, press photographer, filmmaker, author, publisher and technology expert @, currently living in Lausanne, Switzerland and London, United Kingdom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *