• Germany edition
 
Brits and Americans choose German jails
There are 75 British and 74 US citizens in German jails. Photo: Felix Kästle/dpa

Brits and Americans choose German jails

Published: 22 Nov 2013 09:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Nov 2013 09:10 GMT+01:00

The latest available figures from March 2013 show there are 75 Brits and 74 Americans in Germany's jails. The US figure has decreased over the past five years from 112 in 2008, while British prisoners have fluctuated since 2008. The number peaked at 93 in 2011 and has fallen to 75 now – the same number of prisoners there were five years ago.

The British Embassy in Berlin confirmed that it deals with around 100 arrest cases involving its citizens each year. It means that a substantial number of those who are later convicted decide to remain in German prisons rather than transferring to a prison in the UK.

Should I stay or should I go?

Prisoners Abroad, a British charity that provides support and assistance to British prisoners in foreign countries, has 28 clients in Germany - 27 men and one woman.

Head of Fundraising and Communications, Caroline Olshewsky told The Local that its focus was on “reducing [prisoners’] isolation, helping them keep in touch with family members, reducing boredom and overcoming the language barrier.”

It also assists with applications for prison transfers back to the UK.

As with many other European countries, it is possible for Brits convicted in Germany to appeal for transfer to a British prison.

The US - in accordance with the Council of Europe's Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons – also has a transfer agreement with Germany.

But dozens decided to remain in Germany.

'Conditions in German prisons are good'

Olshewsky said that British prisoners often decide to stay - especially if they are serving a short sentence - because it can take about a year to apply to be transferred.

Others, if they have got family in Germany, may also decide to remain if "conditions are probably better [than in the UK],” she said.

Olshewsky added: “Conditions in German prisons vary from category to category but we wouldn’t have huge concerns about conditions in German prisons compared to some of the other places we work.”

The British Embassy confirmed it had received positive feedback from prisoners on conditions in German jails.

“British prisoners comment that conditions in German prisons are of a high standard,” said the embassy’s Head of Press William Gatward.

“Inmates are provided with three meals a day, are allowed to exercise and have an opportunity to work and earn money,” he added. “They can also learn new skills and languages.”

In April 2013 a luxury €118 million prison was opened in Brandenburg near Berlin and drew considerable criticism.

Heidering prison is decorated with art, has state-of-the-art sports facilities and includes a lift, the Welt newspaper reported.

On the first floor of the building there is also a family area with a kitchen, sofa and television where prisoners can receive visitors, the newspaper reported.

But the British Embassy in Berlin stressed that imprisonment abroad can be an extremely difficult experience. “It can be a distressing time for a British national who finds himself in a foreign jail in a country with a different language,” the embassy said in a statement.

Olshewsky from Prisoners Abroad added: “It can be really challenging for family members because they are separated from their loved ones by a greater distance than if it had happened back home. Arranging things like visits and navigating a foreign system can be really challenging.”

Ultimately a prisoner's conditions depend on the kind of prison they end up in – and this depends on the crime they have committed.

In Germany there are 'open', 'semi-open' and 'closed' prisons. Inmates in open prisons are given greater freedom, security is not so tight and prisoners are periodically allowed to leave the institution to perform community service.

In Britain, meanwhile, there are four main prison categories for adult males. Categories A, B and C are closed prisons for more serious criminals, while prisoners in category D are sent to an open prison. In the US, prisons also divide into four main types.

No typical crime

The kind of crimes that British prisoners are locked up for in Germany varies according to Prisoners Abroad. “I wouldn’t say there’s a typical case in Germany really,” Olshewsky told The Local. “Not like our demographic of people detained in South America who are predominantly involved in drugs cases. This is not necessarily the case in Germany.”

But drug offences are a common cause of arrest for Brits in many foreign countries. The charity is currently assisting 80 Brits between the ages of 18 and 30 held in foreign jails on drugs charges and it reports that over 850 British citizens are currently imprisoned across the world for drugs offences.

The same is thought to be true for Americans. It is believed that 1,500 to 2,000 American citizens are taken into custody abroad every year, according to the LA Times – many of these for drug-related offences.

On Thursday the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in conjunction with Prisoners Abroad, launched a campaign to raise awareness of the consequences of drug use, possession and smuggling abroad.

READ MORE: Thousands from US and UK on German benefits

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Fred Searle (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,227
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd