• Germany edition
 
Festive prisons release 1,000 inmates
Photo: DPA

Festive prisons release 1,000 inmates

Published: 16 Dec 2012 13:52 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Dec 2012 13:52 GMT+01:00

Regional governments can choose to pardon prisoners whose sentences are due to finish over the winter. The idea is to lift the emotional burdern on prisons over the holidays, which a Justice Ministry spokewoman said can be a “particularly difficult” time.

Prison chaplain Friedemann Preuß said the annual gesture was an act of magnanimity. “There's a lot of suffering,” he said. Many prisoners spend the time leading up to Christmas wishing for a perfect family, he added. “It depresses the mood, the spirit.”

In order to qualify, prisoners must have a proven track record of good behaviour and not currently be the subject of any criminal investigations.

Further criteria for early release include not having served time for violent crimes, terrorist activity, theft or drug offences, wrote the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper on Sunday.

However, prisoners must also agree to going home early. Often they refuse the offer because they are reluctant to be released for the festive season, especially when no relatives or loved-ones are waiting for them, said a spokeswoman from Rhineland-Palatinate Justice Ministry.

This year, North Rhine-Westphalia has released the highest number of prisoners and has set 710 people free since November 7. In second place is Hesse, where between 150 and 200 inmates have been let out early to celebrate Christmas.

Only Saxony and Bavaria have refused to keep the generous tradition, arguing that it is not fair on the other prisoners.

“A Christmas amnesty arbitrarily favours prisoners whose sentence happens to end around Christmas time,” said Beate Merk, Baviarian Justice Minister from the Conservative Christian Socialist Union (CSU). Early release had nothing to do with the time of year, added Merk, a position the regional opposition have described as heartless.

Those remaining behind bars over Christmas in Germany typically mark the occasion with church services, skat tournaments or barbecues. One prison, the JVA Castrop-Rauxel near Dortmund in west Germany, even hosts a Christmas market.

DAPD/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:52 December 16, 2012 by Gretl
"Further criteria for early release include not having served time for violent crimes, terrorist activity, theft or drug offences..." Um, what does that leave? Tax evasion? Traffic offenses?
16:30 December 16, 2012 by Morseman
Gretl:

There are dozens of serious crimes (felonies in English common law), which carry a prison sentence although the offender may not be a danger to society: anything from fraud to traffic offenses, as you say.
17:36 December 16, 2012 by auslanderus
What ever to you do the crime, you do the time.....oh wait, do the crime around Christmas and you get out early.....cool idea....not.
Today's headlines
UN climate talks shuffle to a close in Bonn
Photo: DPA

UN climate talks shuffle to a close in Bonn

Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact. READ  

Berlin slams Italy Nazi claims court ruling
Italy's National Partisans' Association welcomed the court decision. Photo: DPA

Berlin slams Italy Nazi claims court ruling

Italy's constitutional court has ruled that victims of Nazi-era war crimes can sue Germany in Italian courts, rejecting a UN ruling and provoking a strong reaction from Berlin on Friday. READ  

Expats reveal another side of Berlin Wall
Photo: Paul Sullivan

Expats reveal another side of Berlin Wall

Two expats who walked the Mauerweg - the 160-kilometre trail that runs the length of the former Berlin Wall - have written a book about forgotten aspects of its past and present. READ  

Karstadt closes six stores to stay afloat
Photo: DPA

Karstadt closes six stores to stay afloat

Germany's biggest department store chain Karstadt will close at least six stores, putting around 2,000 jobs at risk, in a drastic bid by its new boss to return it to profit. READ  

Quiz
How well do you know Germany?
Photos: DPA/Shutterstock

How well do you know Germany?

Do you know your Saxony facts from your Saxony-Anhalt ones? Test your knowledge of Germany's federal states in The Local's quiz. READ  

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal
Pollution from a coal-fired power station in Frimmersdorf, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal

The UN's climate chief hailed a European agreement in Bonn on greenhouse gases on Friday as providing "valuable momentum" for a world pact to be inked in Paris next year. READ  

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth
Photo: DPA

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth

Germany will get an early Christmas present of around €779 million from the EU, thanks to weaker than expected GDP growth. READ  

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told
Photo: DPA

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told

It will take several days to find out what caused a massive explosion on Thursday which rocked a town on the Rhine, killing a builder and injuring 26 others. READ  

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'
An NH90 helicopter. Photo: DPA

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'

Germany's fleet of NH90 helicopters is undergoing engineering checks after one of them suffered a serious engine failure, in the latest blow to the country's military capabilities. READ  

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m
Rainer Schwarz at a court hearing in September into the case. Photo: DPA

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m

The man who was blamed for Berlin's miserable attempt to build a new airport must be paid more than €1 million - after being fired. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: Huge explosion rocks Ludwigshafen
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
Which high school cliche is your German city?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Storm hits southern Germany
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,524
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd