Donatella Hodo, 27-year-old Albanian commits suicide in italian prison

Donatella Hodo wearing a blue blouse
Donatella Hodo wearing a blue blouse
 27-year-old girl of Albanian origin, Donatella Hodo, has committed suicide in the Montorio prison in Verona, Italy, sucking gas in the cell stove in a desperate condition. The young Albanian had problems with drug addiction and was arrested for several minor thefts.

Judge Vincenzo Semeraro wrote an open letter read at Hodo's funeral, in which he accused himself and apologized.

"It has been a week since Donatella performed her tragic gesture and I ask myself a thousand questions. Where did I mistake, what? Whenever a person in prison commits suicide, it means that the whole system has failed. In the case of Donatella, I was part of the system after following her case for six years. So, like the system, I have failed. The structures of serving the sentence are not for women, "he told Corriere Della Sera."

Donatella's hard past

A past characterized by addiction to many drugs and thefts, Donatella, born in Albania in 1994, had spent her last six years inside and outside the prison.

Since 2016, she has been arrested several times, the most serious crime, an improper robbery, and considered by the investigating judge as a woman with an "alarming personality in terms of social danger". This was her past, not serious crimes, but the repetition rate does not tolerate, and the years of prison increased. Last Friday, she had met her lawyer, Simone Bergamini, and was looking forward to leaving the cell to return to the community, to detoxify in the structure she had fled a few months earlier. She would have succeeded, only had to wait a few weeks, to resist, because, despite that desire for life, the availability of social services was at high levels.

Conversation with the lawyer

"I have spoken to her, I didn't even understand the slightest intention to end her life, she was in a hurry to go out with Leo, her boyfriend."

The lawyer, for years, a member of the National Prison Observatory and therefore aware of the difficulties of prisoners and especially attentive to "signals", to phrases that may suggest an extreme gesture, speak very little.

"I explained that she would be welcomed again in the community, she just had to be a little patience because everyone was interested, at all levels."

Tragedy on August 2

Last Monday (August 2, 2022) in the morning, she saw her boyfriend, then at night in the cell where she was alone, she applied what she had probably planned. She leaned to the bed as if she were sleeping, but she had a bag around her mouth and inhaled the gas from the stove. No one was seeing her, no one could imagine. On Tuesday morning the officer knocked on the door at 7.30 am because she had a therapy at 8am, where she was detoxifying. Half an hour later, the guard returned, she was not raised and the guard opened the door to give the alarm. Donatella did not move, she was dead, but it is the autopsy to determine the time of her death.

Donatella's last letter to her family and her lover Leo

A troubled and fragile soul perhaps due to the fear of a recently born emotional relationship that had turned into a deep connection with a boy, Leo. And maybe for her, the conviction that she couldn't have or at least see a future together with the young man she was attached to might have had an impact. She wrote that fear and the request for forgiveness in a note where she expresses her love for her mother, where she talks about her relationship with her father and dedicates it above all to him, Leo, to whom she asks for forgiveness. Advising him to be strong. All her life, she should have and wanted to be a beautician, she was a beautiful girl, but at the age of 21 she had some problems with justice.

Donatella kissing Leo on his left cheek and the letter she wrote before she killed herself in prison
Donatella kissing Leo and the letter she wrote before she killed herself 
Shoplifting, usually accompanied by several friends, to get money to buy drugs. She had been arrested many times and for this reason the commissioner had ordered a ban on staying in Verona. She could not even have walked around the city, but on August 13, 2020, it was the most serious episode, something other than the theft of a wallet or perfume.

That day she tried and succeeded in grabbing the bag from a lady who was walking with a friend. The victim tried to fight back and chased after her, but Donatella's reaction was particularly violent and knocked her to the ground.

Donatella kissing Leo on his left cheek 
The Public Prosecutor requested and took measures, believing that another measure, i.e. "house arrest" with an electronic bracelet, would not prevent other crimes by her. But she had changed, she had come out and gone to the therapeutic community, left there, and therefore returned to the cell. But she had met a boy, with whom she had fallen in love. 

The letter of Donatella
 The letter of Donatella
But she had changed, she had come out and gone to the therapeutic community, left there, and therefore returned to the cell. But she had met a boy, with whom she had fallen in love.

The pain of the girl's family

Her father took her to various specialized centers, even outside Italy, twice to Spain, then to Croatia and Belgium to heal her. "Saving her had become my reason for living," he told to Italian media.

Donatella's father met and hugged with tears in his eyes during the funeral the Veronese judge who attended his daughter's case. "I was shaking, we both felt defeated."

He says he feels guilty for his daughter's death. "Where did I go wrong? In what? I never expected my Donatella to do such a thing, never. I feel that my life without Donatella is worth nothing, I am the one who failed, not the judge," he says worriedly. In one case, the young woman still ran away from home. For two years she was in Spain when her father found her, "she was in terrible conditions, she weighed only 24 kilograms, she was a skeleton ... I took her and brought her home, took care of her for three months in a row, never leaving her until she recovered. Fortunately, then she came back with us, even then I never stopped being by her side, helping her."

In the Church in the funeral of Donatella Hodo
 In the Church in the funeral of Donatella Hodo
"I was not the only mistake for my daughter. The whole system has failed and in my opinion, even the controls in the prison were not adequate. For this I made a complaint, unfortunately, my daughter will not return but she deserves the truth and justice", he said.

Her fiance Leo was also at the funeral

In the church, in the heart-breaking service was also Leo, the boyfriend who was waiting for the imminent release of the 27-year-old to live in the house they had recently rented to be together.

"I'm sorry, you're the most beautiful thing that could have happened to me. I'm sorry if I'm leaving like this, my dear..." Donatella wrote in the solitude of her cell in Montorio before letting herself die on the evening of Tuesday inhaling gas from the stove.

Unfortunately, in a moment of despair, fragility took over the Albanian beauty. She still had all the time and opportunities to rebuild her life by changing the past, but suddenly she was overcome by a feeling of emptiness and helplessness, as she wrote her love dedication to Leo that he left in the cell: "I'm afraid of everything and I'm afraid of losing you, I love you, I'm sorry."

Interview with Vincenzo Semeraro:

Requering her life in prison at the age of 27, after a long hand-to-hand with drug addiction. The delicate face of Donatella Hodo conceals the abyss from which she has never managed to re-emerge. But her parable is everyone's drama, also of the magistrate who had to deal with her recovery. Judge Vincenzo Semeraro, 63 years old, working in this sector in Veneto since 2009, for once he set ap aside the penal code. He took paper and pen and writes a letter with the heart, which is read during the funeral. "Sorry Donatella, with your death I failed too."

Dr. Semeraro this are heavy words. Why do you say you failed too?

"Because when a 27 -year -old girl dies in prison it means that the whole system has failed. The surveillance judiciary is a fundamental gear, so I now assume in my shoulders a heavy weight".

How well did you know Donatella?

"Of course. I had seen her enter prison at 21 years of age, for thefts and other minor crimes. She had an already heavy history of dependence, with a dramatic personal affair for many reasons. That situation struck me. He had a very fragile personality but hidden This fragility behind an armor. He had a character that might seem difficult, and irritating. But it was not so. We had to work in-depth, dedicate time and patience".

Realistically what you could have done more?

"I don't know exactly what, but I know that you could do more: maybe keep it half an hour more when he came to the talks, or maybe two more comfort words.

But was this girl ever been in the community?

"Yes, I advised her to apply. Last March she managed to enter one of these structures by converting the penalty but in May she was already in prison again".

How it is possible? What happened?

"When I returned to the Institute in June, she asked to see me and told me a story of disagreements with the operators of that community. He had broken some rules and they had stiffened. In front of that wall raised almost immediately, she decided to escape, Except then being re-arrested shortly. After 16 years as a surveillance magistrate, I can say that the first period of entry into the community is delicate and difficult. For a drug addict, it means putting in front of a mirror and starting to work on problems".

In 16 years you may have seen as many stories as that of donating it. Why did you touch this to the point of writing a letter of apology?

"Working with prisoners means talking to them, knowing them. There are cases that take more and cases that take less. And I don't talk about cases like simple files. These are people, lives. Donatella was in love with Leo, his own boyfriend. He hoped for a lot to go out to find him. Other inmates that I had taken to my heart have changed their life and were reinserted into society. I did not succeed with her and this makes me suffer".

Her letter can also be interpreted as a strong criticism of the prison system. Yes?

"I think that prison, as it is, is designed for men and not for women. Because it tends to contain violence and aggression, which are typical characteristics of man. A penitentiary tailor-made for women should explore the emotional scope but in Italy, there is not something like that. Here women are equalized to men, but it is a Martian error. The woman in prison is a doubly weak subject: it would need greater protection".
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