Interview with Adele di Stefano and Antonella d’Ambrosi on the CONSCIOUS Project

Since 2018, WWP EN has been working alongside ASL Frosinone and Italian partners on the CONSCIOUS Project. CONSCIOUS is aimed at reducing rates of recidivism amongst perpetrators convicted of sexual and domestic violence. The practical work on the project takes place in prisons in Italy.

Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work and live and, consequently, work on the CONSCIOUS Project had to evolve to adapt to this challenge.

How would you describe CONSCIOUS for someone who has never heard of the project?

Through interventions in social and healthcare treatment for convicted perpetrators and people at risk of using violence, the CONSCIOUS Project aims to reduce the risk of these perpetrators re-offending. Additionally, the project aims to reduce the number of new cases of violence against women.

The project, aided by a multidisciplinary approach to restorative justice, has tested an innovative service in the Lazio Region of Italy, working on the treatment and care of perpetrators. We make sure to take into account the health of the individual, as well as of the community, and this is aided by having a public health institution as the project coordinator. Through this, preventative interventions have already been introduced.

One of the most important goals for us is to develop an intersystemic cooperation network; no institution or body can implement a violence-prevention policy on their own because it requires cooperation and coordination from all sides. The project is therefore interested in guaranteeing specialised treatment for perpetrators, as well as in defining and stabilising agreements with public & private institutions and social & civil society.

How has COVID-19 affected your work on the project, considering the practical work for the project takes place in prisons?

During the lockdown, which lasted three months in Italy, group treatments were suspended. In this particularly delicate phase for the inmates, who were deprived of family visits, the health-care professionals continued to hold one-on-one therapy sessions with individual participants.

The suspension of group sessions occurred during a critical phase of the rehabilitation work (drafting a letter to the victim). Consequently, participants were not able to share their letters with the group. However, the individual meetings made it possible to continue treatment and avoid losing most of the progress already made. After the lockdown, it was important for us to resume the group work at the point it was interrupted. We succeeded in keeping the prepetrators engaged in their process of change and were subsequently able to complete the treatments.

During the lockdown, we additionally started a 24-hour telephone number for all emergency situations, including those related to domestic violence. After the lockdown, we saw an increase in requests for collaboration, both with lawyers and with municipal services and associations for the protection of victims.

What are your future plans for the CONSCIOUS Project?

  • Strengthening the network of services which specialise in the treatment of perpetrators
  • Developing synergies between both social and health services and non-profit associations to prevent violence
  • Exchanging experiences and practices with new EU partners

What are the most important lessons you have learned so far during the work on the CONSCIOUS Project?

We found that the inmates reacted positively and actively to the treatment. Which shows that perpetrators convicted of gender-based violence are receptive to treatments which reduce rates of recidivism. Prison officials also appreciated our work and some even asked about a follow-up beyond the project’s duration.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of the CONSCIOUS Model could be affected by resistance from professionals and institutions. Therefore, we need to continue raising awareness and explaining the benefits of the treatment for society as a whole. Furthermore, it is clear that the effectiveness of the model itself depends on a close collaboration between the health & justice systems. Without this collaboration, there is a risk that treatment is interrupted or hindered.

Last changed: 04.02.2021