Dozens of British and American prisoners are deciding to serve their time in German jails rather than transferring home, justice ministry figures seen by The Local reveal.
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. see more