Italy's prison panettone offers sweet way to cut crime

Tue Dec 9, 2014 9:59am EST
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By Isla Binnie

PADUA, Italy (Reuters) - White-coated bakers are chopping nuts, dipping pastry into liquid chocolate and hanging freshly baked panettone Christmas cake upside down to preserve its domed shape.

But when one of the all-male team steps outside to smoke, he is in a barred enclosure attached to Padua prison.

Sweet smells have wafted through this building since 2005, when the local Giotto cooperative opened the 'Pasticceria Giotto', which they say is Italy's only bakery inside a jail.

The cooperative says the re-offending rate among prisoners who work on their projects in Padua drops to 1-2 percent from a national average they put at over 70 percent.

The prisoners, serving sentences for crimes including murder, are keen to extol the psychological benefits.

"This work makes a person feel they have value, you get satisfaction from it. You develop creativity," said Davor, 49. "When you come in here you don't feel like you're in prison."

Of the roughly 800 detainees in Padua's Due Palazzi prison, 150 are paid to work on such projects, which also include a call center and workshops making suitcases and bicycles.

The bakery's signature delicacy is panettone, baked to a traditional recipe that takes 72 hours to make from a precise mixture of flour, butter, eggs and sugar that is enshrined in Italian law.   Continued...

Prison baker Marco Frizziarello, 38, is pictured during a break outside the kitchens of the Pasticceria Giotto in Padua's Due Palazzi prison December 2, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi