Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Italian island jail hosts
high-end vineyard

As well as top-quality wine, Gorgona’s 40 inmates, many of them convicted of murder, including a notorious contract killing, also produce high-quality pork, vegetables, chickens, olive oil and cheese

By Barry Moody  /  Reuters, GORGONA ISLAND, Italy

“It’s good here,” he said.

The vines on Gorgona were first planted in 1999 but later abandoned. They were cleaned up and restored after 2009 by a now-released Sicilian inmate who had his own vineyard at home, helped by Prinzi and Papa.

The Marchesi de’Frescobaldi wine dynasty came on the scene in the summer last year after prison authorities asked local companies to invest in the agricultural program. The company sent experts to improve the care and picking of the vines, harvesting the same year.

Lamberto Frescobaldi, 30th generation of the family, vice president and head of wine making, said that the one hectare vineyard was ideally situated, facing east toward the morning sun and planted in mineral rich soil.

The Frescobaldis, who were bankers and then wine suppliers to the English kings in the Middle Ages, pay a wage to the convict workers and then sell the wine.

The governor of Gorgona, Maria Grazia Giampiccolo, is known for her progressive methods and also runs a prison inside a Medici fortress in the Tuscan town of Volterra. Inmates there run “Jailbird Dinners” every year with help from local chefs.

She is a leading advocate of engaging inmates in work by building relationships with outside companies.

“We need real possibilities to reinsert inmates into society... If the response is only prison it will always be inadequate,” she said.

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