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Italy’s overcrowded prisons are pandemic petri dishes, so authorities are letting out older detainees—including mobsters—to keep them safe. But what about their victims?

When Francesco Bonura was sentenced to 18 years and eight months in prison for mafia collusion and extortion in the early 2000s, anti-mafia investigators cheered. They had finally put the important Sicilian kingpin behind bars. 

In the 1980s, Bonura, now 78, was tried for five different murders and a “lupara bianca”—a term used when the body disappears without a trace. He beat those charges on a technicality about the weapon used in the killings, but investigators worked tirelessly to put him away, and eventually they did. During his sentencing trial, the prosecutor called him one of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra’s “most influential bosses,” a “valiant” mobster and trusted ally of the likes of Bernardo Provenzano, one of the deadliest leaders the Sicilian mafia has ever known. about:blankabout:blank

Bonura walked out of prison this week, allowed to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest because he qualified for “compassionate release” under Italy’s new COVID-19 regulations to get inmates over the age of 70 out of overcrowded prisons if they have health issues. 

In normals times, inmates serving time for mafia-related crimes are kept in relative solitary confinement, have visitations and mail monitored and are kept far away from the general prison population so they can’t recruit or direct from their jail cells. The risk in allowing mobsters out of jail early and unsupervised is that they can easily get back to business. Those high in the organized crime hierarchy will automatically garner the respect they had before they went in and will easily rise to cult status now that they are out.

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