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29 Giugno, the first prisoners’ cooperative in Europe

07 / 1993

"29 Giugno" was set up in 1984. It is the first prisoners’ cooperative in Italy. The process started with the preparation of a Conference organized at Rebibbia Prison,(Rome)on June 29th 1984. The possibility to work was initially a job offered by the Province of Rome for the maintenance of the main road in the area around Torrita Tiberina. The cooperative was officially founded in November 1984 but the legal procedures by the Province and Regional councils in order to decide upon this work lasted until the end of 1985 and needed a great deal of lobbying by the prisoners involved. The work began on March 19 1986 and lasted until May 17 1986 in accordance to the contract issued by the Province of Rome.

The cooperative had 27 members, among them 13 male prisoners, one female prisoner and 3 ex-prisoners. 10 members (8 prisoners)of the cooperative were employed in this first job which became a media issue and had a positive impact on the local community (Torrita Tiberina). The same area commissioned further work to the cooperative which is also carrying out socially useful, voluntary work for the town. "29 Giugno" has been able to differentiate its areas of work that range from road maintenance to environmental and ecological work, cleaning and removal work and catering. It also obtained a building by the Fifth District of Rome as head office for its activities. At the end of 1986 "29 Giugno" had employed 18 members (13 prisoners and 2 ex-prisoners)and had a very positive budget of 64 Million Lire (around 50.000 US $)with 6 Million Lire in profits (4,500 US $). All profits were invested in the social fund in order to stengthen the cooperative. The social fund (140.000 Lire at the beginning of the activities)increased to 50 Million Lire in 1987. The initial plan to reach the 50 Million Lire in 5 years took only two years. In 1987 and 1988 the total budget was respectively 270 and 480 Million Lire with 25 and 50 Million Lire profit. Since 1987 "29 Giugno" started working relations with the private sector too. In 1988 it began to employ five mentally and phisically disabled people and 3 immigrant prisoners. In 1989 the total budget amounted to 816 Million Lire but gains were limited to 10 Million Lire in order to support to quick growing up of the cooperative. The social capital is fixed at 200 millions lire and immediately increreased to 72 Million Lire. "29 Giugno" has so much work that it is forced to employ external workers. One of the job carried out is to arrange the Gipsy camp on via Tiburtina (Roma)not far away from Rebibbia Prison, the only one to receive active maintenaince in Rome.

Since 1989 "29 Giugno" has been coordinating with a prisoner cooperatives network, CO.IN. (Cooperative Integrate)and with the consortiums Fincooper (for better credit conditions)and Papillon (a group of 5 cooperatives including Rebibbia prisoners). Through Papillon cooperatives can receive integrative funds from Lazio Regional Council. part of these funds are used by 29 Giugno in order to develop social service and to help arranging a social centre in order to offer sport and cultural opportunities for young, marginalised people from the suburbs of Rome.

1990 is a crisis year in the building sector and in the life of the cooperative. Much relevant work is delayed because of bureaucratic difficulties and some of the founding members left 29 Giugno. The social fund has shrunk for the first time since some of the members have come out of prison and left the cooperative for other job opportunities. The total budget is limited to 320 Million Lire with 4 Million Lire profit. But very soon new members will replace the old ones and contribute to restore the social fund. In 1991 the cooperative decided to use the financial support of Lazio Regional Council to set up an emergency fund. Social and emergency fund together are now 322 Million Lire. 29 Giugno also has a better balance between personnel costs and total budget and for the first time its balance with banks is also positive. The total budget of 1991 and 1992 are again very positive: respectively 752 and over 1.000 Million Lire with 40 and 253 Million profit. The cooperative also receives significant recognitions and it is able to obtain important works in the environmental sector from Rome IV, VII and XVI districts. It is now registered in the National Register for Building Companies. Since 1992 it has changed its status to that of "social cooperative" in accordance with the new national law on cooperatives.

In 7 years 29 Giugno has created job opportunities for over 90 prisoners from Rome and Paliano prisons and for 5 immigrant prisoners who cannot be members of the cooperative because of Italian law. Over 50 prisoners and 30 prisoners with special worker status have been members of the cooperative (with an average of 16 months of work each and a quite high turn over). The cooperative provides adequate insurance and health care for all its workers and it has been able to expand over the years giving attention to a stable financial condition and to the need of diversifying its areas of work.

Palabras claves

economía social, cooperativa, empresa

, Italia, Rome


It is worth stressing that prisoners themselves have played a key role during all phases of the life of the cooperative: from the identification of job opportunities to the analysis of institutional relations and possibilities of work, lobbying and project planning and implementation. While most of other Rebibbia cooperatives have been set up by political prisoners (as presented in other forms), 29 Giugno was founded mainly by common prisoners.


Translated and adapted by Alessio Surian. This study was first presented during the seminar "Cooperative tra detenuti:da esperimento a cooperativa sociale" (Rome, June 16 1993)supported by Lazio Region and Rome Province. The acts of the seminar are available at IRED NORD office. French version, see MFN 2640.


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