I’ve been in Germany with @verainstitute visiting prisons to learn about their approach to mass incarceration. I’ve been to the largest male prison in Hamburg, one of the women’s facilities in Berlin, and two juvenile prisons — one in Berlin and one in Hamburg. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. A life sentence in Germany is generally 15 years. It can be extended but 15 years is the standard when people here talk about “life.” 2. The doors for inmates are solid, with no windows into the rooms. This is due to Germany’s privacy laws which extend to inmates.
3. The majority of people in prisons & jails are immigrants. And there are almost no staff who speak multiple languages.
4. The largest prison in Hamburg had 40 guards for 800 inmates, guards carry no weapons, and inmates are padlocked in their rooms at night due to the low staff ratio.
5. Anyone who is incarcerated is barred from working in many civil servant roles later, including being a teacher.
6. One of the women’s prisons had a needle exchange within the prison walls, as they acknowledged that drug use happens inside and they want people to use safely.
I’m still processing. But these are the things that I’ve seen thus far. They’ve done wonders on statutory reform, they have work to do on conditions, experiences, and resources.