Final stop in prison – an inmate complains: “This is costing us our freedom”

“Driving a tram, taking a ticket, you have to learn everything again,” says Julia B.. She was sentenced to eight years in prison and is in the Cologne-Ossendorf prison. She was once involved in gang violence and drug trafficking. Now she is learning how to use a comb and scissors while in prison and wants to become a hairdresser. “You have to shake off a certain environment,” explains the 41-year-old, adding: “I was active in the erotic studio.” Julia hopes for a chance outside the prison walls. Only five percent of all prisoners are women. After their release from prison, women are significantly less likely to reoffend than men. Overall, however, the recidivism rate is frightening: twelve years after their release from prison, 66 percent commit a crime again. Of these recidivists, a third end up back in prison.

The number of prison releases is falling

Since the end of the 1970s, prison stays in Germany have primarily served to resocialize imprisoned people. The primary aim is to prevent them from committing crimes again after their release. But this apparently only works to a limited extent. The film examines the question of why the system doesn’t work and comes to the conclusion that the inmates of German prisons are not sufficiently prepared for life beyond the walls. For example, the number of relaxed detention conditions such as accompanied exits has been declining for years.

“Earn a lot of money with little effort”

Christian Twachtmann has been in prison for half his life – currently in Werl. During his second imprisonment, he escaped from open prison and robbed three banks. The reason he explains in the documentary is that he didn’t want to be “reliant on people’s help”, but wanted to “stand on his own two feet”. “I thought I would do what I did back then, make a lot of money with little effort.” Twachtmann has been back in prison since 2017 and has been in preventive detention since 2021. During this time, he did not “receive a single execution.” Many of his fellow prisoners were “lethargic,” suffered from “hospitalism,” and “have given up the fight and are falling into neglect,” says Twachtmann.

What happens if the outdoor animal fails?

Christian Twachtmann is of the opinion that the state is not properly fulfilling its task of resocialization. The law is being flouted. He believes that “admission as soon as possible” as required by law is not possible. “This is costing us our freedom.” Klaus-Dietrich Janke, head of the Rosdorf prison in Lower Saxony, is responsible for more than 300 prisoners. He explains that he will look very closely to see whether he “can be responsible” for a relaxation of detention. If something goes wrong at an outcome, there is a huge media outcry. “With every decision I make here, I ask myself what will happen if I sign and the prisoner fails with a serious crime.” Statistically, however, the probability is rather low: only one in 10,000 prisoners uses a day of freedom to escape or return late.

“I always wanted to be a burglar”

Thomas Galli also once ran a correctional facility. He quit his job because he could no longer see the benefit. He says in the documentary “Endstation Prison”: “I had doubts about the German penal system. If I lock myself up, I’m not resocializing.” But no one wants to take responsibility for more easing. “It’s better when I’m in here at the moment,” admits prisoner Klaus Behrens. He made his first break at the age of twelve and ended up in prison for the first time at the age of 14. “I always wanted to be a burglar.” With cocaine in his veins, he climbed the facades. He says he now has “empathy” for his victims. But Klaus Behrens will probably remain in preventive detention for a long time. His social prognosis is poor. They call people like him “revolving door candidates” in prison.

Jean Harris

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