New Patrons Program at Bollate Prison, Milan

Project location: Italy, Rome
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: April 2013
Project number: 2012-073
Beneficiary: Fondazione Adriano Olivetti


The Bollate Penitentiary in Milan was established in 2001 as a progressive treatment facility geared towards the social and work-oriented rehabilitation of detainees.

Unlike many other penitentiaries in Italy, it is not overcrowded, hosting 870 inmates in a space designed for 900. The prison's internal staff includes 370 corrections officers, 5 educators and 3 psychologists, who are assisted by about 50 external volunteers on a daily basis. Thirty-four of the officers are female; the officers living in the barracks number 260, or 70% of the total. Twenty-two families live in government housing next to the institution. The average age of the officers is between 25 and 35, and almost all of them are from southern Italy. Thirty-six per cent are married, and many have families in other parts of the country and complain about the impossibility of bringing them to live in Milan, for economic reasons.

The leading aim of Community and Society Sector of Adriano Olivetti Foundation is the development of cultural studies and projects addressed to the examination, promotion, and expression of various forms of social unity and community life. The Adriano Olivetti Foundation is committed to realize these objectives along with local governments, Italian and foreign no profit organizations, and the institutional bodies of the European Union.

New Patrons Program allows any subject, public or private, to commission works of art reflecting a collective desire for self-representation or a request to improve the area thanks to the combined efforts of three subjects, the citizen-patron, the cultural mediator who interprets the patron's needs, and the artist called upon to realize the final work.

Thanks to New Patrons, contemporary art has become a useful instrument for dealing innovatively with issues related to liveability and urban sustainability, social integration, and the improvement of degraded areas and sites.Creating a different sort of prison requires that everyone's corrections officers and detainees alike - play a different role from the norm found in traditional prison culture. It requires efforts on several different fronts, first and foremost that of creating a team spirit, and moving from a vertical, military-style organization to a horizontal, managerial one.

The most complicated aspect is modifying the mission of the corrections officer, who is no longer there merely to guard bodies, but is called upon to use his intelligence to observe detainees, and to work cooperatively with non-police staff. The officer‘s well-being both at work and in existential terms is a necessary condition to motivate change.

Preparing detained citizens during the incarceration period to deal with the outside world in an emancipated and dignified way means not only creating work opportunities and social-residential solutions, it also means building a creating a climate and environment that avoid making individuals worse, attenuating the grip of total control, which is progressively replaced by a system of clear, shared and respected rules. The prison is thus considered a sort of small city, in which safety is guaranteed by attending to the rules rather than watching over the imprisoned bodies of its inhabitants.

The rehabilitation and development of the detainee's identity through re-insertion into the social and work sphere is essential. The program is based on offering detainees the opportunity to attend scholastic and professional training courses and to work inside and outside the prison. Towards this end, projects are currently being financed by the Municipality and the Region to create external working networks that deal with finding job opportunities outside the prison, with the aid of municipal work grants for the first few months after hiring. The institute also promotes detainee participation in cultural activities offered through the efforts of private social and volunteer associations.

The New Patrons Program application to the Bollate Penitentiary is part of an earlier re-qualification plan for the area called "Corrections Officer Well-being Project, 2010/2011", aimed at improving the working and living conditions of Penitentiary Police officers employed in prisons.

The Nuovi Committenti | Bollate project, conceived by the Fondazione Adriano Olivetti, is intended to open an area of the detention center to the general public. New Patrons will be involved in refurbishing a portion of the complex currently used as a gym/fitness area: the area will host a daycare center for the children of Bollate corrections officers, with the intention of eventually welcoming the children of families from the neighbourhoods around the prison as well. The space, planning of which is still in the evaluation phase, will be accessible to the city by means of a separate entrance. The green space in front of the building will host a public park and small kiosks for various uses.

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project.New Patrons coordinator at Fondazione Adriano Olivetti: Maria Alicata

Mediators: Giovanni Fabbrocino, Viviana Saitto

Artist: Francesco Simeti


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