The number of inmates of foreign origin in German prisons reaches its historic maximum

19.03.2019

The proportion of prisoners of foreign origin in German prisons is at its historic high, according to a new study by the ministries of justice of the 16 federal states of Germany. In Berlin and Hamburg, for example, more than 50% of the prisoners are from abroad, according to the report, which also revealed a peak in the number of Islamists in the German prison system.

The data, compiled by the Rheinische Post newspaper, show that the increase in foreign inmates began in 2015, when Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed the entry without veto to Germany to more than one million immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

All federal states in Germany reported a "very sharp increase" in foreign prisoners and stateless persons in the last three to five years, according to the newspaper, although the national total is difficult to calculate due to differences in the way statistics are collected.

Since 2016, for example, in the western federal states the proportion of foreign inmates grew from 55% to 61% in Hamburg; from 43% to 51% in Berlin; from 44% to 48% in Baden-Württemberg; from 35% to 41% in Bremen; from 33% to 36% in North Rhine-Westphalia; from 28% to 34% in Schleswig-Holstein; from 29% to 33% in Lower Saxony; from 26% to 30% in Rhineland-Palatinate; and from 24% to 27% in Saarland. In Hesse, the proportion increased slightly, from 44.1% to 44.6% three years ago. In Bavaria, the proportion has grown from 31% to 45% since 2012.

The number of foreign inmates in the eastern federal states is also increasing. In Saxony, the number of foreign prisoners has more than doubled since 2016. The majority of foreign prisoners there are from Poland, Tunisia, Libya, the Czech Republic and Georgia. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania now has 160 foreign inmates from 66 different countries.

German authorities are also reporting an increase in the number of Muslims in German prisons. The proportion of Muslims in German prisons is now considerably higher than their share of the total population.

With the recent massive influx of immigrants, the Muslim population of Germany now stands at six million, or 7% of the total German population, 82 million. Instead, about 20% of the 65,000 prisoners in German prisons are Muslim, according to data compiled by regional justice ministries.

Muslims represent 29% of inmates in Bremen; 28% in Hamburg; 27% in Hesse (although in some prisons there, 40% of all prisoners attend Friday prayers); 26% in Baden-Württemberg; 21% in North Rhine-Westphalia; 20% in Berlin; and 18% in Bavaria.

At least 300 hardline Islamists are serving time in the German prison system, according to data from regional justice ministries. Weigh arrest warrants on 350 other Islamists. The majority of the Islamist inmates are in Hesse, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin. Many are being housed in different facilities, but there is concern that those who are not are able to radicalize other inmates.

In Hesse, for example, the number of Islamists has more than tripled since 2013, while in Baden-Württemberg, the number of Islamist prisoners has more than doubled since 2016. "The number of prisoners who are drawing attention to their Islamist sentiment has experienced a marked increase in the last two years, "said Guido Wolf, Minister of Justice of Baden-Württemberg. "This presents a new problem for our prison officers, who already bear a heavy burden. We are doing everything possible to detect the signs of an Islamist radicalization in the early stages and we are resolutely against it. "

Between 10% and 15% of Muslim prisoners in German prisons are at risk of radicalization, according to Husayn Meyer, a German convert to Sufi Islam who now works as a cleric in the prison system of North Rhine-Westphalia. He said the German prison system needs more imams, which he says could work to counter radicalization.

In North Rhine-Westphalia there were 41 imams in prisons, but now it is only 25. The descent came after the German authorities carried out security checks on imams in prisons and discovered that 97 of them were Turkish officials whose salaries the Turkish Government paid. Turkey refused to allow German officials to interview the imams. "The requirement that these employees must undergo a new security check is improper and wrong," said the Turkish consulate. The Minister of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia, Peter Biesenbach, replied: "The medium-term goal should be to organize religious and pastoral care so that it is independent of the Turkish State."

Meanwhile, in Hesse, the Ministry of Justice suspended an imam from a prison for his links with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The increase in foreign prisoners has led to mass prisons and a lack of personnel. The prisons of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia are currently at full capacity. To try to mitigate the massification in North Rhine-Westphalia, more than 500 prisoners were released by means of a "Christmas amnesty". The prisons of Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg and Rhineland-Palatinate are at 90% capacity.

Meanwhile, prison staff in North Rhine-Westphalia have done more than 500,000 overtime during 2018, according to an internal judicial report leaked to the Rheinische Post. The prison system of North Rhine-Westphalia requires at least 500 new workers to cover the shortage of personnel. Despite good salaries and benefits, there are few candidates for the physical and emotional work effort.

In addition to the shortage of personnel, many penitentiary facilities are being squandered. More than 500 inmates from Münster, for example, were evacuated and transferred to another location because the building was in danger of collapse. In Cologne, more than a hundred detention centers are currently closed due to the presence of asbestos. It took at least 3,000 million euros to rehabilitate the deteriorated institutions only in North Rhine-Westphalia.

In an article entitled "German becomes a foreign language in many prisons", the Berliner Morgenpost reported on the increasing number of conflicts between German prison officers and German prisoners due to communication barriers. "There is a growing need for language courses and interpretation services, as well as skills to deal with other cultures," said Dieter Lauinger, Minister of Justice of Thuringia.

The prison union GG / BO (Gefangenen-Gewerkschaft Bundeswite Organization) has asked the prison managers to hire interpreters who can give orders and issue instructions in the languages ​​of foreign prisoners. Although some states do use interpreters, the cost is often prohibitive.

German prisons are also reporting an increase in inmate attacks on prison staff. The Union of Workers of Prisons (Bund der Strafvollzugsbediensteten Deutschlands) added 550 of these "special incidences" in 2017. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the number of attacks on employees of prisons has more than doubled since 2016 .

"The figures are a reflection of our society," said Peter Brock, president of the BDSD union. "Insults, threats and attacks are part of daily life."