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Photo of a silhouette behind prison bars
Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.


It’s around that time that I started treating him because his paranoid schizophrenia had gotten quite severe. Years of battles ensued to stabilize him, with the help of his wife and social services.

Sentenced to Poggioreale

F. also has two children. One is blind and the other one has serious behavioral problems.

Although he no longer left the house and was continually subjected to visits and therapy, he got to a better place a few years ago, and his family seemed to have acquired some measure of stability and serenity.

Then, one recent Saturday his wife called me: "Dottoré, he’s been arrested!”

For all the times he’d been stopped with counterfeit goods, even if it was a decade ago, he had accumulated a serious record; and instead of being granted house arrest, he was sentenced to prison straight away.

Soon I will visit him in the Poggioreale prison because it is my duty to find a way to get him out of there as soon as possible, so he can continue to be treated at home.

And I would love to tell him, "Francé, speak up. Tell the judge everything you know. Report the balloon sellers, those who sell socks in the subway, the carts that bring fresh coconut on the beach. The vendors in the middle of the street, white, black — Naples is full of fake Louis Vuitton handbags anyway. See if you can also become a 'collaborator of justice', a witness."

Dottoré's indignation

Last year, Sicilian Mafia boss Giovanni Brusca was released from prison after 25 years in prison after dissolving a 13-year-old boy in acid. If Brusca can get out, Francesco should at least be let out tomorrow with a formal apology.

But unfortunately this won’t happen. If all goes well, in a few months I should be able to get him assigned house arrest. In the meantime, I need to get in touch with the social services as soon as possible. Because if we don't take care of Francesco and his family, they will take away his pension.

His story is similar to many others.

This isn’t demagogy or populism. This is simply the indignation of a doctor who has the privilege of working with those at the very bottom of society’s ladder. And for them, I demand justice.



Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.

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