Crazy Italians

I was reading a couple articles on Reuters: Oddly Enough and came across an article on how an Italian communications network is using prison inmates to staff their call centers.  The centers operate primarily as an Italian version of our 411.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but then came across this sentence which actually made me laugh out loud:

“Telecom says there is no security risk in having detainees consult a nationwide database of phone numbers and addresses.”

Now there’s a sentence that will come back to bite you in the butt.

They’re felons, and they’ve got your number…By Silvia AloisiROME (Reuters) – The next time you call directory inquiries in Italy, you may speak to a convicted murderer.

Italy’s biggest phone operator, Telecom Italia, Thursday presented its new call-center 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 1,600 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 told Reuters as he paused before taking another call.

Rebibbia’s call-center follows a similar Telecom operation in Milan’s San Vittore jail and runs from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. every day except Sundays.

The detainees get paid 12 cents ($0.15) per call answered and on a normal day each one of them deals with around 200 requests for information.

“Jails should not only be a place for punishment. They need not be a permanent hell, they must also give opportunities to people,” said Justice Minister Clemente Mastella as he visited the call-center.

Telecom says there is no security risk in having detainees consult a nationwide database of phone numbers and addresses.

The prisoners cannot dial outside the jail and the company’s computerized switchboard randomly directs each call to any one of Telecom’s 45 call centers scattered across Italy.

“This may seem like a boring routine job, but for people who would otherwise spend the day sitting in our cells and doing nothing, it actually gives a sense to your life,” said 34-year old Salvatore Striano, who has been convicted for Mafia crimes and also works in the call-center.

“It allows us to have some contact with the outside world. And it also makes you feel like you’re being useful. People often need the address of a hospital or a pharmacy. Sometimes they’ll ask the weirdest questions, like what day is it today or my dog is sick, what should I do?.”

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

In other, more Teri-related news, my mom and brother are tentatively planning on coming up here July 31 to August 3rd.  I’m excited by the idea of this.  Also, Stephanie and her husband, Tim, are coming up August 4th to the 6th.  AND I’m having a super-fun birthday party on the 5th.  It’s going to be one crazy week, but a great one nonetheless.  I’ll be sure to post lots of photos.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun picture taken last night of Tim, Josh, and Tim.  All three have recently shaven their heads.
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What do you think?