• Germany's news in English

Brits and Americans choose German jails

Fred Searle · 22 Nov 2013, 09:10

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd