Year

Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air

yes

The prison service offers activities to prisoners

yes

There are not enough activities to offer to all prisoners outside of work or education.

  • In early February, the detection of a positive COVID-19 case in Hamm prison led to the suspension of activities, visits and outings, in order to prevent the spread of the pandemic within the prison.

    i
    23/02/2021
    / Wa.de

There are designated places for physical activities and sports

yes

Most prisons have dedicated space for physical activities or sports. Prisoners have access to a gym even when no sport activities are planned.

Burg prison in Saxony-Anhalt offers yoga, pilates and bodybuilding classes.1


  1. Lana Osment, “The Complexity of Rehabilitation in Open and Closed Prison Setting”, Lund University, 2018, p. 36. 

There are designated places for cultural activities

yes

Most prisons offer art and craft workshops, in poetry, pottery, painting, etc. Burg prison in Saxony-Anhalt offers a book club and creative art therapy.1


  1. Lana Osment, “The Complexity of Rehabilitation in Open and Closed Prison Setting”, Lund University, 2018, p. 36. 

Prison facilities have a library

yes

Work is compulsory

yes

Work is compulsory in most states. Five states have abolished mandatory work.

All prisoners are allowed to work

no

Prisoners in solitary confinement cannot work. There are not enough jobs available. Around 30% of the prison population cannot access work.

Labour as a punitive measure is prohibited

yes

Prisoners can only work after a settling-in period, fixed by the prison administration at one month.

The main jobs offered are:

  • carpentry
  • metalworking
  • basic assembly work
  • maintenance work (cleaning, catering, laundry)1

Industrial assembly work is the most common job type.


  1. Lana Osment, “The Complexity of Rehabilitation in Open and Closed Prison Setting”, Lund University, 2018, p.33. 

The prison governor is responsible for work allocation. Allocation will consider capacities, competencies and expressed choices of the prisoners.

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest

yes

Prisoners work eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. In Bremervörde prison, in Lower Saxony, prisoners work 35.5 hours per week, from 7am to 5pm, five days a week.

Prisoners are paid for their work

yes

More than half the salary is deposited in a savings account. This aims to facilitate life after release. Where appropriate, one part is intended for the civil parties. The prisoner is free to have the remainder.
Prisoners from Rosdorf prison (Göttingen) contacted the Knast-Soligruppe Göttigen support group by mail. They spoke out about their working conditions, which according to them are unfavourable. Prisoners receive the main part of their salary upon release. The cash allocated to the Sicherungsverwahrte is replaced by vouchers.

See the column Persons sentenced to long-term imprisonment for more info on Sicherungsverwahrte.

Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum wage

The hourly rate in prison varies from €1 to €3. The minimum monthly salary is €1,200 on the job market. It is €300 in prison.

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis

no

Their income is subject to social contributions

no

Prisoners are excluded from the pension system.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions

yes

The Prisoners Union - National Organisation (Gefangenen-Gewerkschaft / Bundesweite Organisation - GG-BO) was created in May 2014 in the Tegel prison (Berlin). In 2016, GG-BO counted 850 prisoner members in more than 70 prisons. It is not exactly a trade union as they have no right to strike nor to negotiate collectively.

The main demands of the GG-BO are the implementation of a legal minimum wage, full social security cover (pension, health insurance) and trade union freedom behind bars.

GG-BO members complain about harassment: increased mail control, cell searches, exclusion from work or forced transfers.

In Heidering prison, external service providers have run education and vocational training programmes since 2013.1


  1. The Berlin Senate Department for Justice and Consumer Protection, “The Prison System in Berlin”, October 2015, p. 26, here in German

Education is provided

in all facilities

Secondary level classes are offered to prisoners who have not achieved this level.

Vocational training is provided

yes

Many prisons offer vocational courses. In Berlin, prisons organise classes to gain qualifications to become a fitter, locksmith, cook, joiner, carpenter, gardener, automotive mechatronics technician and bicycle mechanic.1


  1. The Berlin Senate Department for Justice and Consumer Protection, “The Prison System in Berlin”, October 2015, p. 26, available here in German

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs

yes

Prisoners have access to a television

yes, rented

The prisoners in safe custody (Sicherungsverwahrte) from Rosdorf prison (Göttingen) lost the right to keep pornographic documents and DVDs in September 2017. They can no longer record TV programmes. They can watch repeat broadcast for three days.

See Persons sentenced to long-term imprisonment column for more info on Sicherungsverwahrte.

Prisoners have access to a radio

yes

Prisoners have access to the press

yes

The prison service allows access to Internet

in some states

Internet use in prison is debated. Pilot projects are run to allow prisoners to access employment agencies and one probation assistance website. This is the case in the state of Thuringia. All other websites are blocked.
Thep risoners in safe custody (Sicherungsverwahrte) from Rosdorf prison (Göttingen) are rallying for provision of internet access. They have access to seven websites. These sites are censored.

The most represented religions are Protestantism and Catholicism. Islam is in second or third place in some states 1. Most of the prisoners have no religious affiliation.2


  1. Irene Becci, “Religion and Religions in Prisons: Observations from the United States and Europe” in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14 August 2017, p. 244. 

  2. Sarah J. Jahn, “Being Private in Public Space? The ‘Administration’ of ‘Religion’ in German Prisons”, in Journal of Religion in Europe 4/2016, p. 409. 

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs

yes

Prisoners can receive visits from a minister of their faith 1. Conversations between them are confidential.

Imams are mostly volunteers. As they lack in numbers in some states, they cannot assist all prisoners who make a request. Muslim chaplaincy is the subject of debate. Most states express willingness to offer one. However, there are no contracts with Muslim organisations. The provisions for religion in public law are based on Catholicism. German law is not adapted to the characteristics of Islam. 2


  1. Irene Becci, “Religion and Religions in Prisons: Observations from the United States and Europe”, in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14 August 2017, p. 244. 

  2. Sarah J. Jahn, “Being Private in Public Space? The ‘Administration’ of ‘Religion’ in German Prisons”, in Journal of Religion in Europe 4/2016, pp. 405-416. 

Dedicated places of worship are available

in all facilities

Each prison has a space in which it is possible to organise a collective religious service (mainly worship, but also Bible study groups). Some older prisons have a chapel. Places of worship (chapels or multi-cultural rooms) can, in any case, be for everyone’s use. Volunteer chaplains meet religious prisoners in a room reserved for visitors.

There are chaplains in the prisons

depends on the religion

The prison service remunerates the chaplains

depending on the religion

Chaplains are paid when the administration deems that the number of participants is sufficient. Each facility usually pays one Catholic and one Protestant chaplain. Some receive only half of their salary or are volunteers for the reason stated above (Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western-Pomerania, Brandenburg, Thuringia, etc.).

Most states make a strict distinction between religious practice and radicalisation prevention.

Radicalisation prevention is implemented within the framework of social therapy programmes.

The federal state has not developed a national policy for the prevention of radicalisation in prisons.

Only some states implement prevention programmes. This is the case in Bavaria with the MIND programme. 2,700 officers are trained in the detection and prevention of radicalisation in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities

yes

Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

the prison administration

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources

yes

Financial resources are accessible

in a named account

The named account is funded by four types of sources:

  • funds given by relatives
  • remuneration for work done in detention (3/7 of the salary)
  • release earnings (4/7 of the salary). This account is not provided for in the prison laws of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western-Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony and Thuringia
  • funds which the prisoner had prior to their arrest. While in prison, prisoners cannot manage the money they accumulated prior to their incarceration.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support

yes

Those detained without resources and who unable to work receive financial assistance. The administration pays them an allowance of approximately €35 per month. This amount varies according to the prison.

Prisoners are allowed to discuss matters relating to their conditions of imprisonment

yes

Discussions about the conditions of detention between prisoners and prison authorities take place within a pre-established legal framework: the principle of co-responsibility of prisoners (Gefangenenmitverantwortung, GMV). This framework entitles their elected representative to take part in the decision-making process concerning prison life. This representative conveys the concerns of their fellow inmates to the administration.

For more information on the principle of co-responsibility of prisoners, see Sarah Watts’ thesis, University of Münster (2013).

Prisoners have the right of association

yes

Prisoners do not have the right to strike. They do not have the right of collective negotiation.

Prisoners have the right to vote

yes

By court order and in exceptional circumstances, a prisoner can be deprived of the right to vote. Such deprivation may be pronounced in cases of treason or high treason against the Federal Republic of Germany.

Prisoners in an open facility may go to the polling station or cast a postal vote.

Those in closed facilities cast a postal vote. The prison administration guarantees vote confidentiality and the ballot papers are placed in sealed envelopes.

The publication is subject to censorship. The Lichtblick, published at Tegel prison, in Berlin, is the only one not subject to censorship. The authorities have tried, unsuccessfully, to reduce its freedom.