Prison inmates in Rome put to work mending the city's battered roads

Their ancient counterparts would have been sent to the Colosseum to be mauled by wild beasts but prisoners in Rome were assigned a less deadly challenge on Tuesday – mending the capital’s potholed roads. A first batch of 24 inmates were put to work filling in the craters that pockmark the city’s poorly maintained thoroughfares. Under an initiative called “I redeem myself for Rome”, the beleaguered city council has turned to the inmates of the city’s Rebibbia prison to tackle the lamentable state of its roads. Red tape, corruption and years of underinvestment mean that many roads are in a deplorable condition, presenting a daily slalom course for cars, mopeds and bicycles. The first phase got underway in Torre Spaccata, on the grimy eastern outskirts of the city. The prisoners, wearing orange and blue work clothes, cleared out drains, which often become blocked and cause widespread flooding during heavy rainfall. They were trained for three months in the fine art of asphalt-laying by employees of Autostrade per l’Italia, the country’s roads authority. The prisoners will be assigned to other, equally battered parts of the capital in the coming weeks. The work experience is intended to help them better integrate back into society on their release from jail. A similar initiative began last year when prisoners were sent to some of Rome’s ill-kempt public parks to clean up and carry out maintenance. “On the one hand we give them the possibility of integrating back into society, on the other we provide them with an opportunity to make themselves useful to the community,” said Virginia Raggi, the mayor, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. She has come under intense criticism since her election in 2016 for her lack of progress in tackling Rome’s most persistent problems, from uncollected rubbish and graffiti to public buses which have an alarming tendency of bursting into flames. So numerous are potholes, and so perilous are they to motorbikes and mopeds in particular, that residents have taken to marking them out with luminous yellow spray paint.