Penalty over now

“No one – it has been written – is ever all in a gesture he makes, whether good or bad.”

The text recounts and reports twenty-six years of letters exchanged between the judge, author of the book, and Salvatore, a man on whose head a heavy sentence is placed: sentence never ends. A concept on which we too have hardly ever dwelt, but which deserves further study.

This narration has the quality of making us escape for a moment, at least for the space of 210 pages, from our certainties, often very rigid about the crimes of others, about murders and sentences far from our daily lives, for which we often fall into the easy and perhaps too much hackneyed comment according to which a judge and a prison guard should take the key to a cell and throw it away forever.

But no: in this book there is the possibility of being able to pave the way for another comment, at least not the usual one; there is the possibility of having a closer look at the life of a prisoner. Elvio Fassone will never and in no line tell us which and how many crimes the lifer is held responsible for, indeed in a passage Salvatore himself admits that in reality he has committed many more crimes in his life than those already known to the judge. Here the provocation thrown at the reader is evident, or rather the effort the judge forces him to make is evident: listen to this man’s prison journey and then tell me if you are still ready to sentence him too, even though you don’t know the heads of accuse. It’s true, it’s not easy for all readers to accept this premise, according to a good portion of them it would seem like a passage even incorrect, such as disloyal. But this real story is intended to stir our consciences, our sense of morality.

How much humanity in the pages of this book! He is not an essay and does not provide solutions to the intricate problem of the end of sentence that is never, always current and always debated. Where does the law end? What boundaries can certain sentences have and how much can they weigh on the life of a man, whoever he is?

The topic dealt with helps to reflect on an important topic, which should be tackled in an organic way, but which many are not interested in. The role of prison structures within modern society should be re-discussed from scratch, to understand how much the punitive and  rehabilitative functions converge. All while maintaining respect for the injured party, the victim of the crime, as a comet. For all these considerations, and for many others that we cannot report here due to lack of space, we strongly recommend reading this book.


Elvio Fassone, Fine pena: ora, Sellerio, Palermo, 2015

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