Every prison is an island


“I wonder how many of us live with unfounded fears that perhaps we have unconsciously grown fond of.

If the title of the book is true, then it is equally true that it is books like this that transform prisons into peninsulas. Land languages ​​that come to light at low tide and facilitate communication between islanders and mainland inhabitants. The more texts like these are written and read, the more the strip of land will be passable even when the tide is high.

Daria Bignardi takes us into a world that is often known only through hearsay; reinforced concrete bodies in the center of cities, or solitary on inaccessible islands, held together by the stories of their residents, whether prisoners or workers. The book gives voice to these testimonies collected over time.

The greatest value is then represented by the first indirect and then direct relationship that the author has had with the prison institution, since as a child she listened to the stories at school of the Ferrara prison where the writer Giorgio Bassani was locked up, to the irony of the fate that led her to live a short distance from San Vittore in Milan, up to her volunteer work linked to writing inside the prison.

Out of respect for the victims of crimes, we ask ourselves what alternative punishments could be for prisoners. There are many stories of those who entered prison at a very young age for minor crimes, and then became real criminals behind bars. Waifs and mentally ill people who might need other care from the institutions.

Another central theme is that of suicides in prison, with a growing number, which represent the failure of a system that has now reached collapse, which needs to be rethought with courage, vision of the future and respect for human rights.

We really liked the author’s approach to the topic. Far from wanting to teach something from a pulpit of good utopian intentions, the stylistic signature is that of those who want to tell their own life experience in contact in one way or another with the prison system, sharing the stories collected, to open up a simple dialogue. Opening up the possibility of alternative punishments to prison for some types of crimes would be a step towards a more inclusive society.


Daria Bignardi, Ogni prigione è un’isola, Mondadori, Milano, 2024

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