Serving Time Only Way to Join "Il Sistema"

Charles DeLucca, our “foreign correspondent,” writes occasional stories for this blog, usually about life in organized crime in Italy; he often draws comparisons between the Camorra and the American Cosa Nostra.

Life in "Il Sistema" (La Camorra) is depicted in a famous neapolitan song entitled "Il capoclan´."

Unlike Sicilians, who see the State as the eteeeeeeeeernal enemy, we Camorristi own the State, and the State is part of our daily rackets, a part of our way of doing things. Anyway, this song starts by saying: .... "Da piccolo non ha potuto mai studiare, per sfortuna se ne andò a lavorare. Si sacrificò per mangiare la sera, volle la famiglia nella miseria...... Certo questo l'ha voluto Dio, se ora è un vero uomo di strada E se ha deciso così a chi deve dare il cuore? E' capo e sa campare e noi dobbiamo rispettarlo."

More or less, the song speaks about how poor one is when little; you can not study in school. To take your family out of misery, you have to "work". And that means, you have to respect your capo clan. So, entering Il Sistema is by necessity and not by choice. Anyway, "getting in" has certain requirements. For us (and remember I´m writing from my southern Italian perspective) it means basically 2 things: 1.) do a piece of work (really it means do many....) and, 2.) spend a decent amount of time in jail.

Now. About the first one I won't elaborate for obvious reasons. But it is just like that, you do it because you do it.

The second one is more interesting. Jails in Naples are not like American jails. Although jails in Italy follow European standards, Naples is really out of Europe. So, going to jail means sharing a cell with 15-20 guys. Some sleep in the floor, you take a shit in front of many people and you get to see the same shows every day. Overall, difficult conditions to start with. Imagine life in the can during the hot summer of southern Italy without air conditioning...

If you "go away" -- as American mafiosi like to say -- and you are not part of a clan, you are on your own. 
Member of the Di Lauro clan.
But if you keep your mouth shut and behave, you can sometimes become part. I remember a case when some guys from the Potenza area actually got made in jail by guys of the Moccia clan -- a small clan, not too many guys inside the joint or outside, but they got in. And if you are taken by a clan, small or large, you are in it for life. Bigger and stronger clans, like the Casalesi, Di Lauro, Giordano and Russo clans, have a lot of material to choose from.

But to get in: it matters not how much you kill and not even how much money you can make.You must have your experience in jail. You see, that is why we would never have a Jack Falcone among us.

Allora, when in jail as a member of a clan you have one advantage: the clan takes care of your family. That means that somebody from the clan will visit every week and bring a bag of olio d'oliva , pomodoro pelato S. Marzano; pasta (vermicelli); formaggio parmigiano reggiano; mozzarella di bufala; pomodori verdi; carote; café...... 

This may not be a lot by American standards, but in Naples it helps. [And the American Mafia doesn't lift a finger for most of its members/affiliates who are in prison.---Scarpo.]

But this means that you must stay active, whether in the joint or not. In the joint one of your daily tasks is to observe the new arrivals -- those who have done some work for the clan, those who would like to become part of the clan, and those who are from your geographical área. Remember, in Naples, you join the Clan of your own región so that way, everybody knows you and your family.

You want to see if they can handle the pressure, the abuse of other inmates; you want to see if they accept visits from the State attorney or if they stick to the gold rule: Just do your time. The penitentiary system is like the minors leagues for us. Where can you teach a young one how to kill with your own hands? Where can you teach young ones how to use a knife? What you do is get a large hanging slab of pork, like you see at the butcher shop and you teach il più piccoli where to stick the knife. It feels like a human body and you can locate where the different organs are.

You see, jail is important for us. It really is like going to College.
There was a time in the early 80s and late 90s when the ritual of "getting made" involved the sharing of blood among clan members. The idea is that all members come from a common ancestor. So, the capo clan would (in my days) make a small cut on his right hand, and you would cut yours and then you would hold your capo's hand.You where then part of the clan, joined by blood. Nowadays it is different because of health issues. But in my day, it really meant something.

That obligation to spend serious time in jail is what makes us Camorristi different. I believe that if you take that part of the initiation process away you would have a serious problem building character in your guys.


  1. Bravo DeLucca,

    This is the problem in America now for many decades. There are no more Italian neighorhoods in the inner city. And for the Americans reading, I'm talking about places like East Harlem, East New York, Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Not Bensonhurst - the neighborhood that produced the most rats in my opinion. The Italian ghettos were tough. When these guys went to prison it wasn't much different from the neighborhood. That's why the blacks have an easy time in jail, because it's like the projects. Anybody ever do any business at the projects? If you did, you would know what I'm talking about. You got guys today who really come from middle class families and really don't need the Borgata, but join because of the thrill. Then they get to the joint and can't handle the conditions or the Latin Kings or the blacks. The Americanization of the mafia in America is what ruined the mob. They left the old neighborhoods for better, but then they lost touch. They should just follow the Jews and become doctors, lawyers, and accountants. The mob in America nowadays is just about making money, but not a way of life, like decades ago. The conditions in and around Naples are worse than our ghettos in America. The Neapolitans have brass balls by the age of 10. There are still some mob guys that hold their own in the joint, but once they get out of the New York area, a lot of them fall prey to these new gangs that aren't even nowhere near as tough as the Camorristi. In the joint if you fool with a Mexican, every Mexican comes after you. In the joint if you fool with an Italian American, they have a sit down, and most likely have to pay someone off. Not too long ago Carmine Persico had a cup of orange juice tossed in his face by some lowlife DC Black gang member and nothing was done about it, and I won't even get into what happened to Gotti. Years ago there would have been a riot if something like that happened. The times have changed. Gangsterism is a poor man's sport much like boxing. The Italian Americans can still generate some decent bucks, but they are second fiddle in the can.
    Anonymous - Old School

    1. Italian American stop being ´hungry´. Being in North America for some time now, I can see that.

      Second, American culture is about ´do not suffer´, and if you do, there is some legal or illegal chemical to fix you. Everything is to easy. You don´t build character.

      Understanding culture comes sometimes from TV. And if I do spend my whole day watching tv like kids do today, I will become retarded. Italian - American kids like the one in ´Jersey Shore´ or the fictional young characters in the Soprano´s that want to get connected with Cristopher in the second season ( more muscles than head)........ This is the new material for the good of the Borgata?

      You are right Mr. Anonymous - Old School. Either people is brought from the old country to fix it or, you will move aside and make space to real tye mafia: Russians, Mexicans, Albanese, Ucranians.

  2. Hello Mr.Scarpo & Mr. DeLucca - I found your site within the past year and became a fan from the beginning.... so much so that I began to post some of your articles on an O.C. forum named Black Hand Forum Any one who reads here is also welcome to join too. I've always posted a link back to your site here Ed. I know for a fact that members from Black Hand have become fans of your site too.... either by my postings or visiting here on their own.

    Mr. Delucca's articles become very active and produce some interesting discussions. Yet here you have very few comments and replies. For your benefit I will post the discussion from Black Hand on this topic of yours. I hope you enjoy and feel free to reply here and/or the Black Hand. Thank you both for your articles. BTW... I'm the one who got that Italian thing translated for you too.:)

    Author: toto [ Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:23 pm ]

    I think this Charles DeLucca is another Walter Mitty character. There is something ever so slightly off about his writings.

    Author: Romney [ Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:37 pm ]

    It's hard to classify or categorize Neapolitan organized crime because it's its own culture and doesn't adhere to the same things cosa nostra and the calabrians do. There are no formalities on joining an honored society- that died out entirely under Mori. It got resurrected with the NCO but for all intents and purposes they are the Italian equivalent of Mexican cartels. The DeLauros and whoeever the hell else may not meet on commission and decide ranks among each other, but they sure do do business with each other, and each group has various differences. From Naples to Gragnano to the interior. It's a bloody mess.

    But the "camorra" in its traditional form carried on through the Picciotteria/'Ndrangheta, in spirt, structure and future renovations in their culture while the camorra pretty much regressed to crime cartels with little cohesion among groups. You have family members involved in crime, but nothing like the 'ndrine and only paper versions of the mafia dynasties you see in Sicily with the Grecos or the Bonuras or any other multi-generational affiliation.

    1. The concept is the same. It was less formal until Raffaele Cutolo attempted to formalise the ceremonies and create a culture very similar to 'Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra. After this, Nuova Famiglia emerged to oppose his authority and control and NF was an expression of Cosa Nostra with most of its important bosses members of Ciaculli or Corleone family. According to Buscetta, in 1978 Cosa Nostra offered Cutolo to become a member of Cosa Nostra but he turned the offer down with a rude reply. This was later confirmed by Alfredo Rosanova Jr. whose father was one of the closest men to Cutolo. Cutolo turned the offer down because he was influenced by the regional partisanship and so he did not want to adopt what he saw as an expression of sicilian culture. The point of this trip down history lane is that while the ceremonies and structures were less formal in the past they were indeed formalised in the 1970s. To now suggest that the formalised ceremonies and structures no longer exist requires some evidence stronger than what this blog says. In reality, the Italian crime syndicates are a very closely modelled on freemasonry in the ceremonies and just as the masons would not abandon their ceremonies then it is highly unlikely that Camorra abandoned the practice of ceremonies because it is one of the primary ways in which they justify their existence and philosophy of rejecting any authority except their own.

      In 1992, investigating judges announced that a cupola had been formed for Camorra and it was modelled on the Sicilian one and it was managing the families and the activities and territories and had reduced some families and made restrictions on territory for other families. Once again, there is no precedent of a commission being formed and then dismantled once it is managing the affairs of the families. The only exception to this is when the law enforcement pressure forces the bosses to go on the run and imprisons a lot of them as happened after 1962 in Sicily and again in the wake of the arrest of Riina 20 years ago. Nothing like this has happened to Camorra bosses.

      As for mafia dynasties, there are plenty of dynasties which are continuing from the 1970s. Most of the bosses are from these dynasties. Anyway, the Greco dynasty is not a good example. There is practically nobody prominent in Cosa Nostra from that family and has not been for nearly 30 years. They may have a few men in Venezuela but they are in Cosa Nostra because the men of the family have always been members but in Sicily there is only Giovanni di Salvatore Greco of Ciaculli family but even he may be "retired".

      Author: Romney [ Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:20 pm ]
      Post subject: Re: In "Il Sistema" Serving Time the Only Way to Join a Clan

      You have a pretty hold on things over there. But have you read Blood Brotherhoods? Dickies makes the argument that the traditional camorra was "killed" in the viterbo trial in 1912 and the remaining pockets outside Naples were eradicated by Mori. But that alone never changed the culture and scope of Neapolitan crime. But there doesn't appear to be any significant camorra presence in Naples from the 30's until the 1960's. But then again, street plays were still featuring camorra stories of yesteryear and a criminal generation grew up watching that. But its modern groups don't seem to follow any agreed upon protocol. It's not too hard to imagine one group cosanostra-izing themselves with some ceromonies and structures when other groups see no purpose in it. If you think I'm wrong, set me straight I have no ego in this.

    2. Thanks - wasn't aware of that forum - I will çheck it out. Thanks for translation too! :-)

    3. Also your comment was stuck in the spam filter for some reason - that's why it didn't show up...

    4. Also - the commentor who said something is off in Mr DeLucca's writing - its probably because I'm editing him into English - Italian is his first language - I don't speak Italian; my editing may be what sounds "off" to him. I explain this in a previous story...

  3. I have not read Blood Brotherhoods. But I would say that the modern Camorra is primarily a phenomenon that came about in the 1960s especially in the province. In Napoli it existed only in pockets but even more than that it existed in prison.

    Were it not for the ideas expressed by Raffaele Cutolo which came in to reality around the same time as the Sicilians were exiled to Campania in the 1960s Camorra might have become primarily a prison gang. It should however be noted that Cosa Nostra has had members living in Napoli since 1930s. The modern Camorra is dependent on the ideas of these two strands - Cutolo and the Sicilians who were exiled to Campania and inducted locals in Cosa Nostra. Both these strand were similar in concept.

    Anyway, the effect on the common man whether they are organised or disorganised is the same so maybe the discussion is moot.

    Author: Romney [ Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:49 pm ]
    Post subject: Re: In "Il Sistema" Serving Time the Only Way to Join a Clan

    I would think it is moot, but there's a criminal subculture at work, and within that culture, some gene that allows them to regroup and rebuild. The American Mafia is regarded as a joke today by Mafia standards. But consider that there hasn't been any significant Italian immigration since the 1960's and that the mafia structure and protocol has changed little in the last hundred years, that's an attribute to that culture. Generally criminals start gangs for the purpose of crime, when things get arrested and broken up, that's usually enough- especially if the federal government is involved- to permanently destabilize a group or operation. Over the last 100 years, the Mafia is the only American criminal entity to be this resilient by a mile, there are simply no other groups that can substitute what the mafia does.

    That's just the American side, the Italian version is roughly similar, the Neapolitan underworld has its own subculture, alot of it got infused in the 20's in the American Mafia.

    1. You have a lot of balls calling us a ´prison gang´..... lot of balls. Easy to say that from behind the computer.

      We fought against Cutolo and his crazy ideas. It took a lot of blood. To say now that ´The modern Camorra is dependent on the ideas of these two strands (sicilians and Cutolo)´ is simply describing our reality outside Naples. Cutolo and his idea of having a ´Cupola´ where never accepted by the Casalesi.

      The argument of that pizzo de merda Buscetta ( so now we should believed a fucking rat? ) and any other historian is point less, unless they are members of a clan and unless you see it by your self. If not, you are simply creating fiction.

    2. Carlo... I posted what you just replied to. Let me explain how that came to be here. I must have screwed up something as my initial post did not appear?? It was to compliment you and Ed on these articles of yours that I post on a forum I belong to and you are welcome to join And I always post a link back to this blog.

      There is also a reply from 'toto' to your comment that I will post next:

    3. Carlo De LuccaNovember 17, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      You have a lot of balls calling us a ´prison gang´..... lot of balls. Easy to say that from behind the computer.

      Except I didn't say that at all. I said that is what it would have become. But then outrage from a Walter Mitty character who pretends to be a gangster on the Internet of all places is what is to be expected when challenged.


      We fought against Cutolo and his crazy ideas. It took a lot of blood. To say now that ´The modern Camorra is dependent on the ideas of these two strands (sicilians and Cutolo)´ is simply describing our reality outside Naples. Cutolo and his idea of having a ´Cupola´ where never accepted by the Casalesi.

      Except the existence of a Cupola was confirmed 20 years ago by Pasquale Galasso and Carmine Alfieri. His point about the Casalesi which is a conferderation of groups anyway is worthless because the discussion is wider than that i.e. all of Camorra.


      The argument of that pizzo de merda Buscetta ( so now we should believed a fucking rat? ) and any other historian is point less, unless they are members of a clan and unless you see it by your self. If not, you are simply creating fiction.

      Buscetta was found to be reliable by Judge Falcone and many of his pronouncements have been confirmed elsewhere besides which a lot of his pronouncements were legally confirmed. In this case what I mentioned from Buscetta was confirmed by Alfredo Rosanova Jr. (as I already mentioned) but of course he's never heard of this name until now so he needs to deflect attention.

      If he wants to invalidate comment by anybody not a member of a clan he should start with himself. He De Lucca (not his real name I'm sure) is a liar. Charles De Lucca is fictional. Just some sad person with such a mundane existence that he has to pretend to be a camorrista to for some kind of validation. He should save his pronouncements for little children. They might be taken in by his lies.

    4. Anonymous.
      Ok, now I understand. My mistake. Some guys have lots of guts attacking behind a computer but, now I understand it was not you.

      And to this ´toto´: Tell me where to meet you and let´s see if you can say things to my face you f´cking library rat...

    5. Looks like you've been served Mr. De Lucca.... 'toto' calls Bullshit on you and your delusional role play. Who's 'toto??... He's a Friend of Ours on the Black Hand Forum

      Personally I don't care who I get info from.... mobster or library rat... as long as it's fact based, good info. This response of yours above lacks any substance? I hope Mr. Scarpo hasn't had the wool pulled over his eyes? With that....

      Author: toto [ Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:09 pm ]
      Post subject: Re: In "Il Sistema" Serving Time the Only Way to Join a Clan

      This guy was always suspect and now it is proved. Making threats on the Internet is easier than forming coherent arguments. I'm really not bothered by the "library rat" insult when it comes from somebody who makes up stories pretending to be something.

      What is really crazy about this fantasy is that it is one of being a criminal low-life. That is what he aspires to.

    6. Mr DeLucca is a foreign correspondent who writes about Sicilian organized crime. His stories are the most widely read and commented on within this blog. It's a pleasure to have him on board. I get fan mail for him; hes a passionate writer and i have never made claims as regards his status. Frankly your entitled to your opinion - that's why I left your comment. But I dont really care about your opinion. Furthermore i hope for your sake you're right. Mr DeLucca I urge you to stop responding to this scholar. Unless your stories are footnoted, he wont hear you...

    7. I'm sorry you feel that way Ed... I've been a fan of your site for some time now. Count me in as one who sent fan mail regarding DeLucca and your blog here. FYI.... I was the guy who got that bit of Italian translated for you that you so desperately wanted.

      Where was Carlo then?..... He couldn't take 10 minutes to translate it for you? He had enough time to write this crap to you though:

      Corazza Di LuccaNovember 6, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      Ed. There is nothing you should worry about this comment at all. As anonymous said in there, the guy is speaking just pure ´cazzatta´. Maybe a bit of populism in his comment about ´the people united will never be defeated´ and the rest is merely the mention of some camorristi and other guys. State posto.

      Sorry I can´t write more, but things are really heated in Canada. If you feel threatened, just tell me and I send somebody to watch.


      Ed ScarpoNovember 6, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      Thanks - I am fine - hope you are too!

      --- When you asked for that translation you said that you would be in debt to the one who could..... If your a man of your word.... a link on your site to the Black Hand Forum would be nice... As I said, I've been a fan of your blog and I know for sure that you've gained readers because of my posting your articles on the Black Hand. I would say it's 50/50 on Carlo's legitimacy. Your entitled to your opinion too and I really don't care.

      But please tell me what "Furthermore i hope for your sake you're right." supposed to mean??? ..... Why are you telling Carlo to stop responding to the scholar??? He can stand up for himself.... or so the tough guy says. :)

  4. Mr Scarpo, I'm the one that translated your blog post. It took me literally 5 minutes. My friend that is posting to you above, brought it to my attention, as he reads your blog daily. He frequently posts your articles and links back to your blog.
    When you said you'd be in debt to whoever helped you out, I was hoping for you to link my forum somewhere on your blog. I'm not sure if you used poor wording or maybe our ideas of "in debt" are completely different.
    That aside, it was ridiculous for "Charles DeLucca" to say he didn't have enough time to translate a blog (which according to him is in his native language) because of recent events in canada? Seriously? And then he suggests sending someone down to help you if you need it? If he would have really known what the blog said, he'd know you weren't in any kind of trouble at all. "Send someone down to help you" ? Please. And you credit this guy with writing about sicilian organized crime. He hasn't written a thing about the sicilians so far.

    Let this guy reply to me by typing in his own dialect, which according to him, should be from Naples, as he says he grew up on the streets of Naples. I guarantee you he will not.

    All I was hoping for was some shout out for my forum where there are real knowledgeable posters, such as toto and others. You not giving me that, and buying everything this Charles DeLucca is saying, takes away from your credibility. I would love Mr DeLucca to join my forum and speak for himself on there, where he can debate and converse with people that know what's what.

    1. Iò nun song nu accademico. nun song iuto a scuola, chello ca' scrivo e chello ca' so. Ma ra aro vengò io, tu me offend senza motivo, basta nun scurda.

  5. So Ed... I just realized that you were able to fish out of your spam filter my initial reply to this article.... it puts things in a little better perspective. I think things got a little screwed up with that post being missing

    Make no mistake that I am still a fan of your blog and do check here daily for new items. Also I have enjoyed DeLucca's articles.... I'm one of the 50/50 on the Black Hand Forum that would side with you and him but I am just not that familiar with the Italian/Sicilian Mafia. However... I am very impressed with some of the members of Black Hand that do know and post on Italy. If I'm not mistaken, some of out members are posting from their homeland... Italy.

    To help make things a little clearer here, now that you found my missing posts, you can refer to me as Oobatz... my user name on the Black Hand. The post above mine here is from the owner of the Black Hand Forum who did the actual translation for you. It is a fairly new Forum just over a year old now and we are trying to get others to join. Our only intention here was to let you know that your site articles always produce a great topic of discussion on there. The most we ever wanted was a shout out from you and maybe a link to us on your blog.

    Be assured that you have not lost a fan here in me.... I still look forward to checking your site daily.

    If Mr. DeLucca feels he is being attacked.... also know that he does have his defenders too on our site. That is why we offered you both an invitation to join the forum. It's a little time consuming for me to be posting the same shit in both places. I do it because your articles produce discussion there.
    Thanks - Oobatz

    1. Let's start over - we got off on the wrong foot. I was going to email you but I must've deleted your email - capacity is always an issue for me.... So send me another - we'll discuss linking up .....

    2. Thanks Ed... I never felt that you were anything less than a reasonable man. Disagreements happen but at no time was it my intention to start a beef with you or DeLucca. Yes... starting over is a good thing.

      The Black Hand owner or myself will email you at and hopefully we can develop a much better relationship. The first attempt got derailed from the start because of your spam filter which was out of either of our control. Until then please check out the Black Hand Forum... it's a serious site that is well monitored by the owners and through me both you and DeLucca have already become welcome additions even before becoming members.

      Not everyone is going to agree with you or me.... but isn't that what makes the world go round. Email to follow..... Oobatz


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