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Rome mulls getting inmates to clean rubbish-strewn streets

Speaking to Italian press on Friday, Rome’s deputy mayor Daniele Frongia stressed that the task of cleaning up Rome should not be seen as the sole responsibility of the mayor.

“Everyone has to do their bit,” said Frongia. “Including those citizens who until now have been kept on the margins: the prison inmates.”

“I’m convinced that an inmate, if they are retrained and re-integrated into society, can be a resource for the society,” Frongia later told Il Fatto Quotidiano.

He said that work on the projects would begin once he had met with the directors of Rebibbia prison, during his visit there on Friday afternoon.

Rebibbia prison. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“This visit means a lot to me because I have already worked as a volunteer there,” the Five Star Movement politician said. “There are already a lot of projects in the works.”

However, he added that the projects would not drain the city’s coffers, saying the “era of costly projects” was over.

It’s not the first time that authorities have seized the opportunity to tackle reintegration of inmates and the city’s rubbish problem at once; in March, an initiative organized by Ama, the waste management authority, saw recently released prisoners take on community service work, cleaning the city’s public gardens.

And three years ago, another project saw prisoners volunteering to clear up mess at the Janiculum Hill, a popular tourist location which offers vistas over the city.

Rebibbia prison has also joined up with fashion brands in the past to teach detainees useful skills, and other creative workshops and professional training opportunities are on offer.

Rome’s streets are often filled with rubbish, which even piles up around some of the city’s most iconic monuments, a problem which has been aggravated by recent garbage workers’ strikes.

But despite the problems, residents of the Eternal City pay a whopping €250 each year to keep the streets clean – a figure some 50 percent higher than the national average. According to surveys, less than 10 percent of all residents are happy with the city’s waste disposal services.

Mayor Virginia Raggi made cleaning up Rome one of her campaign promises, along with reducing the city’s staggering debts. Her strategy includes plans for better garbage collection and recycling and a crackdown on fly-tipping and littering.

After Raggi’s election, she declared the city would be cleaned up by August 20th thanks to a planned overhaul of Ama – a promise which has not come true.

Speaking on Thursday, Frongia admitted “we are still a long way from normality”, adding that the deadline of August 20th had been set by Ama’s outgoing president and not Raggi herself. However, he restated the Five Star Movement’s commitment to cleaning up the city.