• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Brits and Americans choose German jails

Fred Searle · 22 Nov 2013, 09:10

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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 news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fred Searle (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
400 arrests outside German far-right AfD party congress
"No rights for Nazi propaganda," cried one group of demonstrators. Photo: DPA

Clashes broke out between party members and left-wing protestors.

German public sector workers dispute settled
President of the Verdi union, Frank Bsirske (2nd from left) and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (2nd from right) shake hands after the breakthrough. Photo: DPA

Threat of national disruptions lifted.

German women battle for 'no means no' in rape law
A woman carries a sign reading "no means no" at a demonstration in 2011. File photo: DPA

Germany has long lagged behind other advanced nations when it comes to laws on rape. As parliament discusses a new law, women are using increased public attention to the problem to demand real change.

Cologne mayor tells court of being stabbed in neck
Henriette Reker. Photo: DPA

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker, described in court on Friday how she was attacked during campaigning last autumn and almost lost her life.

'I am truly sorry' says 96-year old Auschwitz SS guard
The accused being brought into court in a wheelchair on Friday. Photo: DPA

A 94-year-old former SS guard on trial for complicity in 170,000 murders at Auschwitz broke his silence Friday for the first time since the war, telling victims: "I am truly sorry".

Woman dies after weeks-long hostage ordeal
Police tape off an area of the farm house. Photo: DPA

A woman has died after being held against her will since March in a farmhouse in Lower Saxony and subjected to "brutal violence".

Boys, 8, go on two-day robbery spree at toy store
Photo: DPA

Two young children in Bavaria plundered a shop for toys worth hundreds of Euros. When police found out they coolly tried to give them the runaround.

Jet-setters rejoice: roaming price caps start Saturday
EU mobile users will soon be calling from Alicante to Zagreb at lower prices. Photo: DPA

Phoning and surfing while abroad is about to get a lot cheaper in the EU as new rules limiting how much mobile operators can charge come into force on Saturday.

Merkel party calls for state to spy on mosques
Photo: DPA

Authorities should be keeping an eye on the content of sermons in Germany's mosques, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has said.

Dieselgate scandal
VW targets return to profit despite year of scandal
A car on an elevator in one of the "Auto towers" at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg HQ. Photo: DPA

Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen vowed Thursday to overcome its current crisis triggered by the engine-rigging scandal, insisting it would not allow itself to be slowed down by the affair and would return to profit this year.

Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Culture
6 weird and wonderful ways Germans celebrate May 1st
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Gallery
Feast your eyes on Germany in springtime bloom
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
Politics
Merkel allows Erdogan case against German satirist to go ahead
Travel
7 of Germany's most jaw-dropping national parks
Hamburg
Gay penguins move to Hamburg to settle down
Business & Money
See-through €5 coin has collectors lining up
Health
Vegan hemp powder recalled over fear toddlers getting high
International
6 ways Mexico and Germany are secretly the best of friends
Munich
Drunk man falls onto tracks, 3 trains pass before anyone notices
Culture
The 7 most German things that happened at the 'German Grammys'
National
Could Germany ban diesel cars from city centres?
Travel
Eight things you never knew about the German Autobahn
Society
Police force naked driver to trek to brothel on foot
National
Bavarian town finally strips Hitler of honorary citizenship
Society
Brandenburg faces wrath of Flying Spaghetti Monster
International
German retiree 'fed to dog' by Russian wife in Mallorca
National
Ordinary Germans toast love online in face of Brussels bombings
National
Germany calls for "strength in unity" after Brussels bombings
7,888
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd