Italy fights mafia with new strategy: banish sons

These images tell the story of one of Italy's most powerful mafia families

(AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)
 (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)
(AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

LOCRI, Italy (AP) — Walk into the Cordi’ family home, and you see photographs of solemn men, one after another, staring down from the walls.

These images tell the story of one of Italy’s most powerful mafia families, as brutal as it is sad. There is Cosimo — husband, father and reputed clan boss — gunned down on a bicycle during a turf war. And Salvatore, the eldest son, recently ordered into solitary confinement while serving a 30-year murder sentence. There’s Domenico, jailed for Mafia crimes, and Antonio, battling depression in a prison psychiatric ward.

Then there’s Riccardo, the youngest, still a boy with melancholy eyes. Antonia Spano’, the family matriarch, pauses before his portrait.

By age 16, Riccardo seemed destined to go the way of his brothers; that’s the rule of blood in Calabria’s powerful ‘ndrangheta clans, a global force in the cocaine trade. But his mother is tired of making prison pilgrimages up and down Italy, and wishes for him a different fate. And even in the ‘ndrangheta, there’s a chance for destiny to be derailed.

Two summers ago, Riccardo became the first of about 20 young men from some of the most notorious crime families ordered by a court into exile, into a kind of rehab away from the mob. This daring tactic by a judge is threatening the ‘ndrangheta by taking away its most precious asset: its sons.

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