Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)



The authorities publish official statistics on prison population

on a regular basis, every 3 months

The demographic and criminological data of convicted persons is available in the full edition of prison statistics publication “Strafvollzug – Demographische und kriminologische Merkmale der Strafgefangenen”.

The prison service has a computerised record keeping system


Total number of prisoners



Variation in the number of prisoners

decreased by 0.9%

/ Institute for Criminal Policy Research – World Prison Brief

In 2020, there were 59,585 prisoners.1 North Rhine-Westphalia accounts for 25% of the federal prison population.2 The lowest incarceration rate for defendants is usually in Schleswig-Holstein. This Land also has, by far, the lowest incarceration rate and reoffending rate.3

  1. World Prison Brief 

  2. Frieder Dünkel, “The German Prison System” in Prison Systems of the World (in French Les systèmes pénitentiaires dans le monde), 2017, p. 22. 

  3. Morgenstern, C., Kromrey, H.,“DETOUR - Towards Pre-Trial Detention as Ultima Ratio, Germany: First National Report“, Universität Greifswald, October 2016, p. 4. 

Number of people serving non-custodial sentences



Germany considers the following measures as the main alternatives to incarceration:

  • probation (Bewährung)
  • parole (Haftentlassung auf Bewährung)
  • supervision of conduct (Führungsaufsicht)
  • conditional suspension of criminal proceedings (bedingte Aussetzung der Strafverfahren)(FLOW)
  • deferral (späterer Beginn der Unterbringung) (FLOW)
  • victim offender mediation (Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich) (FLOW)
  • restitution/compensation (Schadenswiedergutmachung) (FLOW)
  • fully suspended custodial sentence with probation (Strafaussetzung zur Bewährung)(FLOW)
  • electronic monitoring.

The data provided in 2016 includes deferral (1,805), victim offender mediation (14,951), restitution/ compensation (12,201), fully suspended custodial sentence with probation (80,111).

Variation in the incarceration rate



In 2020,the incarceration rate was 72 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants1.

Number of admissions



Average length of imprisonment (in months)



Variation in the average length of imprisonment



The average length of detention, as at 1 September 2015, was 8.2 months.1

Prison density

82 %


Variation in the prison density



In June 2020, the occupancy rate was 79%.1

Below is a breakdown of prisoners based on the prison term served:

  • Up to 3 months: 6,072 (12%)
  • 3 months to 1 year: 17,627 (34%)
  • 1 to 5 years: 21,880 (42%)
  • 5 to 15 years1: 3,672 (7%)
  • Life sentence: 2,392 (5%)

DEStatis – The Federal Statistical Office, 31/03/2017, available in English, click here for German

  1. The maximum duration of imprisonment excluding life sentence is 15 years (Section 38 of German Criminal Code


Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities


Prisons with an occupancy rate of more than 90% are generally considered to be overcrowded. Certain sections of prison facilities are occasionally closed or under renovation.

The occupancy rate of Stuttgart-Stammheim prison is 97%.

The facilities housing untried prisoners report the highest occupancy rates.

As of 31 March 2018, overcrowding was observed in the following federal states: Baden-Württemberg (98%), Bavaria (93%) and Rhineland-Palatinate (91%).

The country has been condemned by an international court for its prison overcrowding

no overcrowding is noted countrywide

A supervisory body has issued a decision on prison overcrowding


Name of authority in charge of the prison service

Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

Each federal state has its own prison service. There are 16 Ministries of Justice in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Budget of the prison service


dollars - € 3 067 133 287


The prison service outsources the management of the facilities to private companies, either partially or fully


Four  facilities are operated by Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

The first PPP facility, the Hünfeld prison, opened in Hesse in 2006. Forty percent of the staff are contracted with a private company called Steep. The Offenburg (Baden-Württemberg) and Burg bei Magdeburg  (Saxony-Anhalt) prisons operate in PPP format.

Some private companies, such as Serco, provide “psychological, medical and educational support to prisoners besides offering video surveillance, catering, work and other services…”1

  1. The Sentencing Project, “International Growth Trends in Prison Privatization”, August 2013. 

Each federal state has had its own prison law since 2006. This is established based on the Federal Prison Act of 1977. The Federal Prison Laws are relatively similar to the old federal framework. 1

“The judicial system of the federal state supervises the prison facilities. It can delegate this power to the Department for Execution of Prison Sentences (Justizvollzugsämte)” (Section  151 of the Federal Prison Law).

  1. Frieder Dünkel, “The prison system in Germany”  in The prison systems in the world, 2017, p. 5. 

There are two types of prison systems: closed (geschlossen) and open (offen). The open prison system is applicable to prisoners serving a short sentence and not posing any physical threat to others. Furthermore, it is also extended to certain prisoners serving the end of their sentence. In such cases, the open prison system facilitates their rehabilitation needs.|^rein]

The open prison facilities are designed to accommodate a rehabilitation centre. The prisoners work outdoors all day and return to the facility at night. The number of open prison facilities has increased, with Berlin being one of the federal states which has the largest number of prisoners in semi-open prison facilities (30%).1

  1. The Berlin Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination,  “The prison system in Berlin”, October  2015, p. 38 (available in English, click here for German). 

The daily detention cost borne by a prisoner was €133.83 in 2013.1 No recent figure is available.

  1. The Berlin Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination, The prison system in Berlin , October 2015, p. 10 (available in English, click here for German). 

There are several types of prison facilities based on the size of prison population.

  • Facilities for defendants in pre-trial detention (Untersuchungshaftanstalt)

Facilities for convicted prisoners:

  • For newly convicted prisoners (Justizvollzugsanstalt für den Erstvollzug)
  • For repeat offenders (Justizvollzugsanstalt für den Regelvollzug)
  • High-security facilities for long-term prisoners (Langstrafenanstalt)
  • For juveniles and young adults (Jugendstrafanstalt)
  • For women (Frauengefängnis)
  • Social-therapeutic facilities (Sozialtherapeutische Anstalt)
  • Open facilities (Justizvollzugsanstalt für den offenen Vollzug)

Total number of prison facilities


including 13 open facilities.


Total official capacity of the prison facilities


/ Institute for Criminal Policy Research – World Prison Brief

Variation in the capacity of the prison facilities

decrease by 1.7%

As of 30th November 2018, the official capacity of the prison system was 74,386 places1.

The Bielefeld-Senne prison (North Rhine-Westphalia) is the largest open facility in Europe. It is also the largest prison in Germany with 1,740 prison cells. The Stadelheim prison in Munich (Bavaria) has 1,379 prison cells. The Tegel prison (Berlin) currently has 950 prison cells. It previously had 1,700 prison cells before the oldest section of the prison was closed in 2015. The Itzehoe prison in Schleswig-Holstein is one of the smallest prison facilities in Germany with just 32 prison cells.

The German federal states with the largest number of prison facilities are mainly located in South-East of the country: Bavaria (36), North Rhine-Westphalia (36), Baden-Württemberg (19), Hesse (16) and Lower Saxony (13) - DEStatis – The Federal Statistical Office.

The German federal states with the least number of prison facilities are located in the North of Germany: Bremen (one), Saarland (two), Saxony-Anhalt (four) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (four).

Percentage of socio-educational workers in relation to the entire prison staff

12.2 %

Out of a total of 38,337 employees.


The prison staff is represented by (a) union(s)


Prison staff are not allowed to go on strike. The same is applicable to all German civil servants.1

  1. The Ministry of Justice of the United Kingdom,“Restrictions on Strike Action for Prison Officers in European Union (EU) Member Countries and Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)“(Restrictions on Strike Action for Prison Officers in European Union (EU) Member Countries and Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), January 2008, p.10 (in English). 

There are Prison Service Schools which provide training courses in order to become Prison Officers (Justizvollzugsschulen). The age criteria varies according to federal state. The age group for recruitment is generally between 18 to 40 years.

The candidates should have a secondary education diploma (nine years, Hauptschule) followed by professional training. Besides this, a junior high school diploma course is also accepted (ten years, Realschule). Candidates should pass a physical fitness test, the requirements of which are similar to those outlined for PDV 300 Directive of police services. The duration of the training course is two years. The course is divided into theoretical and practical stages. The students receive training in the organisation of services, criminal law, rights and duties of officers, constitutional rights, psychology and criminology, to name a few.1

  1. Council for Penological Co-operation, “Selection, Recruitment and Training of Correctional Officers in Germany”, 22 January 2018 (in English) 

The average base salary of an officer is about €2,800. A pay rise is given every two years. The prison officers are also eligible for promotion. The salaries of the highest-paying positions fall between €3,200-€3,800.1

The government is responsible for nearly half of the medical expenses of prison officers. The staff may benefit from public service pension schemes2. The average gross monthly income in Germany was from €3,771 in 2017.

  1. Ibid. 

  2. The Ministry of Justice of the United Kingdom, “Restrictions on Strike Action for Prison Officers in European Union (EU) Member Countries and Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”(Restrictions on Strike Action for Prison Officers in European Union (EU) Member Countries and Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), January 2008, p.10 (in English). 

The officers work for 41 hours per week, on a three shift system. They work one weekend each month.