Admission and evaluation
All inmates are admitted to prison with a valid commitment order
Prisoners can inform their families about their imprisonment
“An arrested defendant should be able to contact a relative or any trusted person at the earliest time possible so that the investigation is not impacted as a result of it.” (Section 114c of the Penal Procedure Code)
There is a reception area for arriving prisoners
in no facilities
The prisoners are assessed during the initial days of incarceration. The new inmates are housed in prison cells equipped to prevent suicide.
The social workers assess the psychological state of the prisoner. They identify possible addictions,signs of mental instability and health problems.
The social workers decide about the likely placement in an open facility. They take into account the risk of escape as well as their ability to work, conform to programmes prepared by the judge and not consume illegal substances or commit any new criminal offences.
A copy of the prison regulations is made available to the prisoners
The criteria for assigning prison cells varies from one federal state to another.
In Berlin, the prisoners sentenced for life and those who require certain support or addiction treatment are placed in specific sections.
The staff responsible for the admission of new inmates are trained to identify prisoners who may harm themselves or other people.
The prisoners who pose a risk of self-harm are generally placed under partial video surveillance. The rules may vary depending on the federal state or facility.
The Sentence Planning Board (Vollzugskonferenz) drafts a sentence execution plan for every prisoner. The plan is updated regularly. It puts together all information related to the sentence and psychological assessment. This information is used to determine the therapy or treatment that may be required later. It is also used to assess the possibility of a subsequent transfer to an open facility.
Access to rights
Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration
The presence of a lawyer is deemed necessary in the following cases:
- If the first hearing, normally held before a court of first instance, takes place in a provincial appeal court (Oberlandesgericht) or a regional court (Landgericht)
- If the person is accused of a serious crime
- If the person disputes their pre-trial detention
- If the person is in custody for at least three months and will not be released at least two weeks before the hearing
- If the mental state of the person assessed determines the likely need of an imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital
- If preventive detention (continued imprisonment after execution of a sentence) is considered
- If the legal representative of the person was excluded from the proceeding by court order
- If the events are serious and require the presence of a lawyer
- If the case is complex
- If it is indicated that the person is unable to represent him/herself
Prisoners have access to a legal aid centre
No legal assistance is introduced after the start of the enforcement of the sentence. The social workers provide assistance with divorce, inheritance, government services, sale of private properties etc.
The measures taken to allow prisoners to meet their lawyer are suitable with regard to the physical space, time allowed and confidentiality. Lawyers can meet their clients anytime between 6am and 6pm. They can visit their clients in a dedicated room or in the client’s cell.
Deaths in custody are logged in a register
The information regarding the number of deaths in custody is published on an irregular basis.
Number of deaths in custody
Variation in the number of deaths in custody
increased by 11.6 %
In 2015, there were 146 deaths in custody 1.
Council of Europe,“Annual criminal statistics. Space I - Prison Populations. 2016 Report“, 2017, p. 115. ↩
Number of deaths attributed to suicide
Variation in the number of suicides
increased by 10 %
In 2015, there were 66 suicides in detention 1.
Council of Europe,“Annual criminal statistics. Space I - Prison Populations. 2016 Report“, 2017, p. 115. ↩
Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
Suicide rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
National suicide rate (per 10,000 inhabitants)
The suicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in the national population is 9.1.
Suicide prevention policies are implemented
Some specific safety measures may be applied in order to prevent a suicide. These may include prohibition or confiscation of objects, observation during the night, separation from other prisoners, withdrawal or reduction of outdoor physical activities, or placement in a secure cell (with no harmful objects). Some restraint measures may be authorised.
Suicidal prisoners, placed under observation, are mandatorily monitored by the medical staff. Certain federal states like North Rhine-Westphalia have not included this requirement into their legislation.
The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution and the legislation
The prohibition of torture is written in Articles 1, 2 and 104 of the Basic Law (Constitution).
Sections 7 and 8 of the law establishing the Code of Crimes against international law define torture and the penalties incurred.
The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was
ratified in October 1990
(signed in October 1986)
Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates
Prisoners may file a complaint against prison authorities if any of the decisions have an adverse impact on them. Complaints are made in writing. They may also be made verbally through the facility director. The timings for hearings are provided to this effect.
Prisoners may express their requests, suggestions and complaints to:
- The prison director: finds an amicable settlement
- The regulatory boards: in case of failed negotiations or amicable settlement with the prison director.
- The Court for the Execution of Prison Sentences (Strafvollstreckungskammer) of the regional tribunal (Landgericht)
The complaints are filed with the regular courts. The court has two weeks upon receipt of complaint to hold a hearing. The prisoners may be present at the time of hearings. The law provides for the assistance of a lawyer. The German prison system, consisting of 16 administrations, is complicated. Few lawyers are specialised. The professional fees charged by them are considered low.
The Advisory Council of the (Anstaltsbeirat) facility acts as the mediator. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the Ombudsman can also fulfil this duty.
National Preventive Mechanisms and other external control bodies
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was
ratified in August 2008
(signed in September 2002)
An NPM has been established
The MNP initially consisted of two bodies. The Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture (Bundesstelle zur Verhütung von Folter) was founded in November 2008. It monitors places deprived of freedom under the Federal Jurisdiction. The Joint Commission of the States was founded in June 2009. It monitors places deprived of freedom under federal state jurisdiction. These two bodies form the National Agency for the Prevention of Torture (Nationale Stelle zur Verhütung von Folter).
Name of the NPM
National Agency for the Prevention of Torture (Nationale Stelle zur Verhütung von Folter)
The NPM has come into office
The MNP came into effect in two stages. The Federal Agency came into effect in May 2009 while the Joint Commission of the States came into effect in September 2010.
The NPM was appointed by
the executive power
The Federal Minister of Justice appoints the members of the Federal Agency. The Conference of Ministers of Justice from different federal states appoints the members of the Joint Commission of the States.
Structure of the NPM
The MNP in Germany consists of the Federal Agency and eight members of the Joint Commission of the States.
Term of office of the NPM
The NPM reports are made public
The annual reports since 2014 are available online. They are also provided to the federal state, federal state governments and their respective parliaments.
The legislation allows the NPM to carry out unannounced visits
The MNP may conduct unannounced visits. The most recent visits were announced only a few hours beforehand.
The National Agency may not hear individual complaints of prisoners.
The NPM can monitor all prison facilities, units and premises
The NPM recommendations are effectively implemented
in some cases
A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)
Its reports are made public
The CPT has made six periodic visits (1991, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015) and three ad-hoc visits (1998, 2013, and 2018). The reports on the visits made by the CPT in Germany are available here.
The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has visited the country
yes, in April 2013
The SPT visit aimed to assess the work of MNP in Germany.
Its report was made public
The SPT published a report following this visit, accessible here.
The prison facilities are subject to the following external monitoring bodies:
- Advisory Councils (Anstaltsbeiräte): citizens appointed by the Ministry of Justice. They are allowed to visit the prison facilities, gather information, requests, suggestions, and complaints. This system was originally under the Section 162 of the Federal Prison Law. It is incorporated into federal state legislation.
- Delegates of each political party represented in the state parliament, in charge of the enforcement of sentences. The prisoners can share their concerns, which are passed onto the state parliament.
- In North Rhine-Westphalia, a mediator is in charge of drafting an annual report for the Ministry of Justice. It includes the reform proposals based on visits made by the mediator and complaints made by the prisoners.1
Frieder Dünkel, “The prison system in Germany” in The prison systems in the world, 2017, p. 22-24. ↩
The resources are limited for the MNP in Germany. Its annual budget is €540,000.1 The SPT has requested the government, following its 2013 visit, to significantly increase the financial and human resources of the MNP.
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report on the visit made between 25 November and 7 December 2015”, 1 June 2017, p.14. ↩
Sentence adjustments policies
The law provides for a sentence adjustment system
Hamburg prison released 40 inmates due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in Berlin and Brandenburg 18 people were released for the same reason. It was decided that in Berlin those who had been sentenced to jail terms of less than three years would not be sent to prison until the summer. In Hesse, any individual eligible for an open prison would not be jailed.
The granting of a sentence reduction falls within the jurisdiction of the facility director. Before considering a sentence reduction, a team of social workers must assess the psychological state of the prisoner. This assessment is of great importance in the final decision.
The sentence can be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced (ab initio)
The Criminal Code may impose a fine in place of serving a sentence with less than a six-month term. Only in the case of exceptional circumstances, does a prisoner serve a sentence up to six months.
Foreigners are often held in pre-trial detention. This situation prevents them de facto to benefit from alternative measures and avoid continued imprisonment.1
Morgenstern, C., Kromrey, H.,“DETOUR – Towards Pre-Trial Detention as Ultima Ratio, Germany: First National Report“, University of Greifswald, October 2016, p.3 (in English). ↩
Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration
The release on parole is possible after half of the sentence is served for:
- sentences of less than two years
- first time conviction
The reduction in sentence is seldom granted. Release on parole is more often granted after two-thirds of the sentence is served.1
Frieder Dünkel, “The prison system in Germany” in The prison systems in the world, 2017, p. 20. ↩
Prisoners can contest a negative decision of sentence adjustment
Specific categories of prisoners are ineligible for sentence adjustment
Those convicted of murder may not benefit from a sentence reduction.
The law provides for a temporary release system
Leave is granted by the prison director. This decision takes into account the psychological assessment carried out by social services at the facility.
A maximum of 21 days of leave is granted per year after serving six months in prison. Prisoners convicted for life sentences should serve ten years of their term before requesting release on parole.
The Sicherungsverwahrte (Prisoners in safe custody) from Rosdorf prison (Göttingen) told the Knast-Soligruppe Göttigen support group about some modifications of the procedures for exit permits. The duration of their outings was reduced in September 2017, from 8 to 2.5 hours a month. The Ministry of Justice of Basse-Saxe said in reply that exit permits can be for a duration of 2 to 10 hours a month, as established by the prison authority.
See the column, “Persons sentenced to long-term imprisonment” for more info on Sicherungsverwahrte.
The law provides for a sentence adjustment for medical reasons
Medical reasons are not considered at the time of the assessment of release on parole request.
In case of serious illness, the prison term can be suspended (Section 455 of the Criminal Code).
Suspended sentences are seldom granted on medical grounds. Only serious illnesses may be considered for the suspension of a sentence. If the continued imprisonment poses a threat to the life of a prisoner or the prisoner cannot be looked after in the facility, the illness is treated as an exception. The person should, upon recovery, return to the prison and serve the remainder of the sentence.
Number of prisoners who have been granted a presidential pardon or amnesty during the year
The Federal President grants pardons if the sentence is passed by a federal jurisdiction. The Ministry of Justice of the state concerned grants pardons when the sentence is passed by a regional jurisdiction.