Crime and Punishment in Liberal and Fascist Italy

AHA Session 170
Society for Italian Historical Studies 2
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon D (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Steven C. Hughes, Loyola University Maryland
Gendering Punishment: Juvenile Reformatories in Liberal Italy
Mary S. Gibson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
Crime, Law, and Justice in Fascist Italy: After the Rocco Code
Victoria C. Belco, Portland State University
Steven C. Hughes, Loyola University Maryland

Session Abstract

This panel presents new scholarly approaches to examining problems of law and order in Italy from Unification in 1861 to the Second World War. Each of the panelists will adopt an institutional focus to investigate the influence of political ideology on the administration of criminal justice in both the parliamentary Liberal regime (1861-1922) and the Fascist dictatorship (1922-1943).  The two contributions on Liberal Italy will explore the ways in which liberal ideas about crime prevention and state interventionism shaped national penal policy prior to the Great War. Paul Garfinkel’s paper on police-administered deportation will argue that despite the Liberal legal establishment’s outward commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law, jurists championed illiberal methods of preventative policing to combat the threat – both real and perceived – of recidivism. Mary Gibson’s paper will analyze how and why “modern” theories about state-directed rehabilitation of minors informed the way the government overhauled juvenile prisons in the early-twentieth century. Through her study of two Roman reformatories, Gibson will contend that the Liberal prison administration modernized punitive regimens for underage offenders only in part: while it secularized and updated methods of re-educative punishment for boys, it left incarcerated girls under the aegis of the Church.
The two papers on Mussolini’s dictatorship will measure the extent to which Fascist ideology penetrated key institutions of law and order in the 1930s. Victoria Belco’s paper on the criminal courts will claim that despite the introduction of the Rocco penal statutes in 1930-1, lawyers and magistrates largely deflected the regime’s attempts to create a distinctly “fascist” penal culture thereafter. Jonathan Dunnage’s paper will stake out a more nuanced position than existing scholarship on the question of the “fascistization” of the police. Dunnage will make the case that Fascist ideology influenced the training, activities and mentalities of junior police officials more than historians have previously recognized, but that the overall indoctrination of the police administration remained uneven. Collectively, the four panelists will not only spotlight the centrality of political ideology in the administration of Italian criminal justice but also suggest the many areas of continuity and rupture between Liberal and Fascist strategies for fighting crime.
Steven Hughes (Loyola University Maryland), a specialist on crime, law and policing in modern Italy, will serve as both chair and commentator.

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