What do prisoners think in prison?
A day behind bars
Get up, have breakfast, work - anyone who is in jail has a regular daily routine. In the penal institutions (JVA) of North Rhine-Westphalia, the day of a prisoner looks something like this: At 5:45 a.m., the officers wake the inmate. A quarter of an hour later they released him from his cell.
A single cell measures around eight to ten square meters on average. There is at least a table, a chair and a bed in it. Many inmates also have their own television in their cell.
Breakfast is at 6:00 a.m. Half an hour later it goes to work. A working day in the prison usually lasts nine hours - including a second breakfast and lunch break. The inmate is free between the end of work at 3:45 p.m. and the start of dinner at 5:30 p.m.
From 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the prisoners can take part in leisure activities - at least this is the courtyard walk. Depending on the prison, sports such as football and fitness training are also on the agenda. In some prisons there is also a prison band or a prison radio. The night's rest begins at 10 p.m.
The inmates usually spend their work and leisure time together, while rest and sleep times are separate. Every prisoner may receive visits from relatives or friends for at least one hour a month.
Anyone who has served at least six months of their sentence can also request leave from detention. Each prisoner is entitled to up to 21 days. A person sentenced to life imprisonment can also apply for leave. However, this is only possible after he has been behind bars for ten years.
The average prisoner
According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were 50,957 prisoners in Germany in March 2018. On average, the prisoners are male (94 percent), between 30 and 50 years old and remain in jail for one to five years. The majority, around one in four, had to go to prison for theft or embezzlement. 1,794 people were imprisoned with life imprisonment.
Closed and open execution
There are two different types of prison system: closed and open. The majority of the detainees, more than 80 percent, are in closed prison, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The prisoners are not allowed to go out. They spend 24 hours a day inside the prison walls.
The facilities of the closed prison must meet various security standards: The windows must be barred and the doors must be secured. In addition, the building must be surrounded by a wall that shields it from the outside world.
In the closed prisons, prisoners are subject to constant surveillance. This is where criminals end up who are at high risk of escaping or committing another crime.
There is also a high-security wing in closed prisons. Electronic doors, grilles made of hardened steel and a device made of wood so that metal detectors can easily discover break-out tools - this area of the institution is additionally secured.
People who have committed a serious crime, such as murderers or terrorists, are housed in the high-security wing.
The facilities of the open prison look different: the windows have no bars and the doors are not additionally secured. During the day, prisoners can leave the prison to do some work outside of the prison. The open prison is similar to life in freedom and is intended to make it easier for prisoners to get there. It is a form of rehabilitation.
However, not every prisoner can be released. Various requirements must be met for this. For example, there must be no risk of the inmate escaping or committing another offense while he is on leave.
In addition, the prisoner must be willing and motivated to cooperate. The decision as to whether an inmate is admitted to the open prison is made by the head of the respective institution.
Preparation for a life in freedom
On January 1, 1977, the Prison Act came into force in Germany. In some federal states it is still valid today, for example in North Rhine-Westphalia. The aim of the Prison Act is to rehabilitate prisoners. In addition, the detention is intended to protect citizens from further criminal offenses.
Since 2006, the individual countries have been able to regulate the prison system themselves; previously the federal government was responsible for this. The laws that are passed by the federal or state governments must be implemented by the penal institutions.
The JVAs determine the institutional regulations and enforce the laws. This applies, for example, to the institutional regulations, in which the daily routine as well as the rights and obligations of the detainees are specified. But this also applies to the tasks of the staff who work in the facilities: from the prison officer to the prison doctor.
Above all, the prison officers and the officers who look after the prisoners during their work take on functions that are important. The law enforcement officers are responsible for the security in the prison. For example, they open and close the prisoners' doors. Because they are close to the prisoners, they can influence them. The relationship between officers and prisoners determines their rehabilitation.
Since rehabilitation became a legal requirement, there have been more and more psychologists, pastors and social workers in prisons. Their task is to prepare prisoners for a life in freedom without crime. For example, they help them to reduce their aggression.
It is often the goal of psychologists and social workers to transfer prisoners to open prison. In an open prison, the chances of successful rehabilitation are greater than in the high-security wing of the prison.
It is important for later life in freedom that the prisoner's social network outside the prison is preserved. The inmates should maintain contact with their relatives. Visits are therefore permitted to a certain extent - but monitored by officials.
In jail inmates can study and work
Every prisoner in Germany is obliged to work. This is what the federal penal law says. Excepted from this rule are people who are in custody.
Prisoners in the closed prison work in workshops within the prison. The workplace of prisoners in the open prison, on the other hand, is outside the prison walls.
Whether in the canteen, the laundry or the cleaning: auxiliary work within the prison is always necessary. The prisoners receive a wage for this. As a result of a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court in 1998, the prisoner's salary has increased in recent years.
A prisoner today earns an average of around twelve euros a day. More than half of his wages are kept for the day of dismissal. The rest is immediately available to him. Inmates in penal institutions in Germany are also insured against unemployment and accidents.
Anyone who works outdoors outside the institution is remunerated according to the collective agreement. He only gets pocket money from the prison. The rest of the money goes to the state treasury as a contribution to detention costs. The prisoner receives a further part of his wages after his release from custody.
In the closed prison, the prisoners also have the opportunity to continue their education. The offer is necessary because many prisoners have not completed any training. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, prisoners can receive further training in over 150 professions. The exams at the end of the training are held by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The chances on the regular job market are not bad for former prisoners. Ideally, they learned punctuality and reliability in prison - factors that also count for employers.
Prisoners in Germany can catch up not only with their professional qualifications, but also with their school-leaving qualifications. The offer ranges from courses for people who can neither read nor write to high school graduation. Inmates can even graduate from university behind bars.
Offenders who have found work and lead a regular life in the first half of the year after their release rarely reoffend. Various studies confirm this.
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