Contact with the outside world
All prisoners have the right to receive visits
Prisoners are generally entitled to two hours of monthly visits. This time may be spread over several visits. The maximum number is four 30-minute visits per month.
Prisoners must submit a request to the prison authorities for each visit. It is possible to schedule two visits in advance.
Defendants obtain their visitation permits from the prosecutor or judge.
Convicted prisoners obtain their permits from the prison management.
The visitor must present a valid identity card or passport. Asylum-seekers must present a valid residence permit.
Visit permits are granted
within a week
People eligible to visit
For security reasons, conversations can be monitored. The presence of a sworn interpreter is required if the prisoner and visitor do not speak German. The visit takes place under supervision. The number of visits with an interpreter is limited to two per month. A maximum of two people are allowed to visit a prisoner together.
Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers
A screen can separate prisoners and visitors as an exception.
Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives
yes, and special arrangements are provided
Communal spaces are organised for visits from members of the same family. Rooms for more privacy can also be reserved.
Prisons in North Rhine-Westphalia set up activities for prisoners to keep in touch with their children. A list of these activities provided by the Ministry of Justice to a Green parliamentary group included father-child days, trainings, story recordings on CD, egg hunts etc.. After the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, these activities had become rarer and the maintenance of links more difficult. Skype visits were also still available.
Conjugal visits are allowed
Required conditions for conjugal visits
lasting emotional relationship
Visitors are not allowed to bring objects nor food. They can buy snacks, non-alcoholic drinks and cigarettes in vending machines in the waiting area of the visitation room.
Existing legislation and policies provide for the placement of prisoners near their relatives. They may, upon request, be transferred to a prison to maintain family ties.
Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail
Mail exchanged is subject to control
Mail can be only be opened to check that it does not contain any prohibited objects.
Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail in sealed envelopes
Letters in sealed envelopes are sent in envelopes marked ‘Personal and Confidential’. Prison staff are not allowed to open them. They may be X-rayed to ensure that no prohibited items are concealed.
Staff render these envelopes unusable after use.
Letters to lawyers or the Advisory Board (Anstaltsbeirat) are confidential.
Prisoners are allowed to receive parcels
yes, under certain conditions
All parcels must be authorised by the prison director. A parcel must not contain food, personal care products or items prohibited by the regulations. The Federal Prison Act allows parcels to be received three times a year. This provision is not retained in the prison laws of all states. It is not possible to receive parcels in Berlin.
E-mail exchange is possible
A project aiming to give access to emails is being worked on in Berlin.
Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls
In Bavarian correctional facilities, telephone calls are not authorised except “in case of emergency”, once a month and by request. “Replacement” telephone calls were introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, prisoners have been able to make calls twice a month for 20 minutes.
Prisoners are allowed to call
The phones are located
in the corridors
In Heidering Prison (Brandenburg), the phones are located in the cells.
Prisoners in Hamburg were given access to telephones in their cells. This measure had already been in place in other prisons in the country. Inmates would only have access to about 30 numbers that would have been checked and approved by the administration of the prison they are in to limit fraudulent use. This measure relieved both the inmates, who could have more contact with their loved ones, and the prison administrations, which could have more control over outside contacts and see the tensions associated with access to free phones reduced.
The cost of phone calls is in line with market prices
According to a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017, call costs from a prison should be as close as possible to those made outside of prison.
Many prisons delay cutting call costs. In December 2018, the GG-BO started a national campaign to demand Telio to provide cheaper phone access in prison.
Phones calls are wire tapped
Phone calls can be wire tapped. The prison administration must consider this measure to maintain public security.
The use of cell phones is authorised
Some prisons consider using phone jammers to prevent cell phone usage.
Prisoners have access to video calls with external contacts
Celle prison offers prisoners, “who are unable due to long distance, health or financial reasons to have visits, to receive calls via a Voice-over-the-Internet-Protocol service”.1
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the German Government on the visit carried out from 25 November to 7 December 2015”, 1 June 2017, p.33. ↩