Keywords: high security hospital, Italian press, care relationships, anthropology of psychiatry, mentally ill offenders
Recently, the Italian press dedicated some articles to the management of rehabilitative measures of mentally ill offenders within Italian public institutions. The reform of the system in 2014 intended to close the old «manicomi criminali» (high security hospitals) to open new institutions: the «Residenze per l’Esecuzione della Misura di Sicurezza Detentiva» (residences for the execution of detention security measures – REMS). The recent interest from the press seems to come from a thought-provoking sentence of the Italian Constitutional Court that ruled on the entire reform process initiated by the Italian parliament. This article argues that, far from carrying forward the reflections in the Constitutional Court’s sentence, criticism of the reform process is based on a moral prejudice reproducing the stereotype of the «total institution» and the degrading conditions of the psychiatric institution. Distancing myself from this ahistorical model of analysis, I will try to indicate different interpretive frameworks for this type of institution, to highlight the relevance of care relationships that often contribute to give meaning to these institutions and their interventions.