The judiciary wants to rehabilitate prisoners – among other things through work. But the state pays the prisoners little money for this. This is counterproductive, criticize prisoner organizations.
Manfred lives in a residential facility. The state pays the rent for Manfred’s room, whose name is different and wants to remain anonymous. Because he is unemployed and has hardly saved anything. And that despite the fact that he worked as a foreman until recently – for 21 years. The problem: He hardly earned anything during this time, because it was prison labor. That’s why he only earned around 360 euros a month. For comparison: with a minimum wage it would have been four times as much.
Bad pay hinders rehabilitation
This is not an isolated case, but the rule in German prisons. Prisoners earn between eleven and 18 euros – a day. Working with this wage – that is exploitation, thinks the “prisoners’ union GG / BO”. She calls for the minimum wage. “Prisoners could then pay contributions for the detention costs and still have more available than they do now,” says Manuel Matzke from the GG / BO. Then it would also be possible to compensate victims or settle debts, which is currently hardly possible. The low wages are counterproductive for rehabilitation, says criminologist Tobias Singelnstein from the Ruhr University in Bochum. This only gives the prisoners the impression that work is not worthwhile.
Market leaders produce in prisons
Many prisoners do not just do anything, but work in the kitchen or in the prison’s own workshops. In Remscheid JVA, for example, they sew prisoner clothing for all of North Rhine-Westphalia and make slippers that can be ordered on the Internet. In addition to these workshops, there are also so-called entrepreneurial companies where external companies produce in the prisons. According to research by the ARD magazine Plusminus, they include, for example, Miele, Hörmann, Gardena, and the aircraft supplier MTU.” Through their work, the prisoners keep in contact with the world of work and participate in economic life,” writes the Miele company. The cooperation pays off for the companies. The tasks that prisoners take on are often not very demanding. Such work could hardly be carried out economically on the free market in Central Europe. The companies usually pay the judiciary prices that are based on the collective wage. However, as in the Bielefeld-Senne prison, for example, they can also be below the minimum wage. The companies also save a vacation and sick pay. Despite everything, there seem to be no real dumping prices, the plus-minus research showed.A large part of the wages that companies pay to the judiciary for work in prisoners, therefore, remains with the judicial administrations. The federal states justify the low wages with rehabilitation. “It’s not about paying the prisoner as much as possible, but rather the aim is to get the prisoner to lead a social life afterward,” said North Rhine-Westphalia Minister of Justice Peter Biesenbach in the plus-minus interview. In addition, the prisoners would not have to pay for any accommodation, meals, or medical care. A prisoner costs taxpayers an average of around 137 euros a day.
Does the effort justify high prices?
For ex-inmate Manfred, the low wages are still incomprehensible, nor was it enough for everyday life in jail. Because: He also had costs in the detention center. For example, the food you can cook yourself or everyday objects that can mean a bit of independence and comfort. A random test showed that many products are more expensive than outside. A bottle of cola costs 25 percent more in jail than outside, as does a pack of salami. And prisoners pay 45 percent more for an electric razor than they do online.The company Massak from Bamberg is responsible for the prices in the JVA Werl. It supplies around 130 of the almost 180 prisons nationwide. Managing director Werner Massak says he has to charge such prices. “We have a completely different effort than in the supermarket,” he says. In judicial circles, Massak is considered reliable. Nevertheless, the NRW Ministry of Justice wants to take a closer look at the pricing in the future after the plus-minus research. Ex-prisoner Manfred fears that he will live on basic security all his life – even if he is retired. “I currently have a pension entitlement of 126.70 euros,” says the 57-year-old. He worked it out before he was imprisoned. His pension entitlement for the 21 years of work in prison: not a cent. Because prisoners are exempt from the pension. “It feels like a double punishment,” says Manfred.
Lack of political agreement to the detriment of the prisoners
Politicians have been trying to change that for decades. However, neither the federal government nor the states wanted to pay for it, admits the Bavarian Ministry of Justice. Nevertheless, an ex-prisoner is not threatened by poor old age. “We offer the chance that he will learn the skills in prison that will later give him the opportunity to find work in the primary labor market. And then he will also be able to acquire pension entitlements,” said NRW Minister of Justice. For Thomas Galli, who until a few years ago managed two prisons himself, the lack of pension entitlement is one of the reasons for a high relapse rate. Almost half of all prisoners will relapse in the first three years. Galli’s conclusion: “The main goal of the prison system should be to reduce crime. That cannot work under these conditions.”