The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - July 25

The next time you call directory enquiries in Italy, you may speak to a convicted murderer. Italy's biggest phone operator, Telecom Italia, presented its new call-centre in Rome's largest prison, where 24 inmates are glued to a computer screen to answer thousands of requests for phone numbers and addresses every day.

"This is a unique initiative in Europe and it helps the detainees get some work experience and prepare for when they'll get out of prison," said Telecom's Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera as he toured the Rebibbia jail, a huge concrete block housing 1600 inmates on the northern outskirts of Rome.

"Good afternoon, this is Gianluca speaking, how can I help you? Thank you for calling Telecom Italia," said Gianluca Descenzo, who is serving a 13-year sentence for a drug-related murder, politely answering the umpteenth call of the day.

"It's good because people don't know who we are, so we don't feel like we are in a ghetto anymore," he said as he paused before taking another call. Rebibbia's call-centre follows a similar Telecom operation in Milan's San Vittore jail and runs from 8am to 8pm every day except Sundays.