She’s the one girl residing on an island of convicted criminals


When Giulia Manca traveled to Pianosa, a former Italian jail island, again in 2011, she was wanting ahead to a soothing sunshine break earlier than returning house.

But 12 years after checking into the beachfront Hotel Milena, which is staffed by supervised convicts on probation, Manca has remained on the island referred to as the Alcatraz of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Now the one girl residing within the ghost village of Pianosa, a part of Tuscany’s archipelago marine park, Manca serves as each the supervisor of the resort and supervisor of the island’s rehabilitation program, run by Arnera, a nonprofit group with the social mission of serving to weak individuals resembling inmates get again into society, and Tuscany’s jail authorities.

“I stayed one week at the hotel and didn’t want to leave,” Manca tells CNN. “It was a novel vacation and the rehab challenge fascinated me, how these inmates got a second probability in life.

“I fell in love with Pianosa. Its silence, the turquoise clear paradise-like sea, the peaceful starry nights.”

Once nicknamed the Devil’s Island, Pianosa, situated between Corsica and the mainland, is now a blissful retreat beloved for its stunning seashores and luxurious inexperienced vegetation.

One of simply two of the island’s everlasting residents, Manca lives and works alongside a jail guard, in addition to 10 male convicts, who work as cooks, gardeners, waiters, seashore cleaners and dishwashers at Hotel Milena, the one lodging facility on the island.

Surrounded by pine timber, Hotel Milena options frescoed ceilings, and holds 11 rooms with wood furnishings and a shocking sea view, in addition to a big patio, the place inmates serve night drinks to friends, a restaurant and a bar.

Manca had been a visitor on the distinctive resort, which is open year-round, for just some days when the then-manager knowledgeable her that the institution was struggling financially and susceptible to closure.

If this have been to occur, the detainees must be transferred again to jail, placing a swift finish to their time on Pianosa.

“I felt I had to do something to help them or they would have gone back behind bars, inside tiny cells with no chance of a fresh start and of learning a job that can help them once they’re released,” provides Manca, who beforehand labored as a vacationer agent.

Manca, who grew up in Tuscany, determined to remain on and take over as resort supervisor. She says she initially labored free of charge, utilizing her administration abilities to assist to safe the resort’s future.

In just some years, Manca was capable of flip issues round considerably, and Hotel Milena has turn into a preferred marriage ceremony and party venue, with friends, partly lured by the resort’s unconventional workers arrange, flocking right here.

Pianosa has become a popular retreat due to its pretty beaches and lush green vegetation.

Situated near Gorgona, one other Italian jail island, Pianosa was arrange in the course of the 1700s to restrict outlaws, bandits and revolutionaries.

The island served as the bottom for a most safety jail up till 1998, when the jail was shut down. Its few residents finally departed and Pianosa was left abandoned for a few years.

Visitors weren’t permitted on the island till comparatively lately, and those that do go to can solely come as a part of an organized boat tour that have to be booked by way of particular tour operators.

In order to be admitted onto the rehabilitation program at Hotel Milena, candidates will need to have already served not less than one-third of their sentence in jail and undergone a collection of strict psychological and social analysis checks.

Over the previous 12 years, Manca has handled round 100 offenders on probation for a mess of crimes, together with homicide.

Although she notes that most of the inmates have been convicted for way over “stealing daisies,” Manca has all the time felt snug on the island and considers it to be one thing of a secure harbor.

She additionally feels strongly that former offenders ought to be given the possibility to contribute to society reasonably than spend extra time behind bars.

“I believe in the power of redemption and that even offenders should be given a second chance, they shouldn’t rot behind bars but be actively involved in rehab tasks,” she says. “I like to see them return to life through work.”

Known because the “Queen of Pianosa,” Manca admits that her job has raised eyebrows amongst her mates and family members as a result of perceived dangers of being the one girl alongside a gaggle of convicts.

“People kept saying I was mad to take on such a job,” says Manca, who can be a member of Arnera. “To be the one girl to work and reside side-by-side with male offenders who haven’t been accused of sunshine crimes.

“But I’ve never felt scared nor worried. I’ve never given it a second thought. I feel safer with them here than back in the city with all those crazy people running around, you never know who you might bump into.”

While being in command of a gaggle of offenders has its challenges, Manca says she does her greatest to create clear boundaries to make sure that the rehabilitation program is efficient.

She explains that her relationship along with her workers is considered one of reciprocal respect, and she or he’s been capable of strike a steadiness by conserving her distance, and being authoritative but open, to be able to assist them.

Each week, Manca hops on the ferry for a three-hour sea journey to mainland Tuscany to run errands and bureaucratic affairs, leaving at daybreak and returning to Pianosa at night time.

Manca factors out that, in contrast to close by Gorgona, the place convicts should return to their cells after they clock off , these on Pianosa are allowed to roam free.

Pianosa served as the base for a maximum security prison up until 1998.

The inmates listed here are paid a month-to-month wage for his or her resort jobs, and keep within the former outdated jail quarters, which have been restyled into cozy studios, with a fitness center, a TV, a kitchen and personal rooms with bogs.

They are additionally given cell phones in order that they’ll be in contact with their households.

Italian jails are thought-about to be among the many most inhumane and overcrowded in Europe, with 120 inmates for each 100 beds, in line with a 2020 report by the Council of Europe, whereas in-jail suicide up 300% since 1960, with a 75% relapse into crime.

Therefore, Pianosa is undoubtedly a much more enticing different for these nearing the top of their sentence.

Manca is happy with the success of the “Pianosa model,” explaining that the speed of those that’ve hung out on the island returning to crime has diminished to 0.01%.

“In the evenings they’re free to go down to the beach and take a dip,” explains Manca.

“However, they need to depart their lodgings early within the morning and return at a selected time within the night, they’re nonetheless underneath supervision and there’s the guard who retains an eye fixed on them.

Offenders can serve the rest of their sentence working on the resort in the event that they behave nicely, and a few have spent 5 to 10 years right here.

But those that don’t exhibit a willingness to vary danger being despatched again to jail to finish the remainder of their sentence.

“They have all served at least one-third of their sentence in jail and undergone strict psychological and social evaluation tests to determine they’re no longer dangerous and fit for the rehab program, [and] that they truly regret what they did,” provides Manca.

“They must demonstrate each day their willingness to work and prepare for a better life. I accept no slips.”

Manca likes to be in contact with those that have left Pianosa to begin a brand new life, placing to make use of the talents they realized on the isle, by way of social media.

She explains that a number of have gone on to turn into councilors for prisoners in different jails after working on the resort.

Manca is massively happy with her position within the course of and says that those that have been initially doubtful about her resolution to stay in Pianosa all these years in the past have now come round.

“Even my daughter Yolanda, who as a kid was a bit skeptical of my job, has come to appreciate the isle and understand the importance of what I do, and now tells me I’m a lucky person,” says Manca.

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