Ex-prisoner sues Berlin for ‘too small’ jail cells

A former prison inmate has filed suit against the city of Berlin on Tuesday, claiming he suffered during his incarceration because his cell was too small and he had to spend too much time inside.

Ex-prisoner sues Berlin for 'too small' jail cells
Photo: DPA

Zoran M. is asking for €7,800 to make up for the psychological damages he suffered from being confined to a 5.8 square-metre cell for 23 hours a day for 256 days of his 561-day sentence.

"Because of being locked up for 23 hours a day, my body is totally broken from my time in jail. I cannot move properly," the 62 year old told broadcaster rbb on Tuesday.

"The prison and these cells were built at the beginning of the 1900s and are in very poor condition," Zoran M.'s lawyer Martin Zimdars told The Local on Wednesday.

"The temperature isn't measured right, the cells are very cold, the window is tiny and the prisoners have to spend 23 hours a day in these rooms with very little fresh air."

The JVA Moabit was built in 1890, when Wilhelm the Second was Kaiser and Otto von Bismarck was ending his 19-year-reign as first chancellor of the German Empire.

Zoran M. also wants damages for not being able to spend more than one hour outside on prison grounds at the Moabit Prison in central Berlin.

"These are, quite simply, inhumane conditions," Zimdars said, adding its not the first case of his kind.

Zimdars' client was arrested in September 2010 for rape. Despite being sentenced in July 2011, it would still be another eight months before Zoran M. would be moved to one of the larger cells, which are between seven and nine square metres.

"I became psychologically damaged while in jail," Zoran M. told the courts.

During his time in prison, the plaintiff said he had made complaints with his social worker, but there are no documents showing as much in his file, reported the Berliner Zeitung.

On Tuesday, the city of Berlin offered Zoran M. €600 for his suffering, but Zimdars said that wasn't enough.

"It's too little, that doesn't even cover court costs," Zimdars told the press.

The lawyer said it would be some time before his client gets his day in court, but hopes to have the issue resolved before the summer.  

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