Italys parliament has passed an amnesty to release of 12,000 criminals from Italian prisons. It will apply to crimes committed up to 2 May 2006 and will give prisoners three years off their sentences and 10,000 off fines. In the wake of the approval by the chamber of deputies, the senate has now passed the measure into law with 245 votes in favour, 56 against and six absentions.

Italian prisons are seriously overcrowded, with 18,433 more prisoners than places for them. 40 per cent of those who will benefit from the amnesty are foreigners sentenced for drug dealing, theft and illegal immigration. More than 100,000 people will be released from house arrest.