ID: COV-008 03 Nov 2020

The Impact of Covid-19 on Prisons and Penal Policy in Germany

In Germany, the situation of prisons before the outbreak of the Covid-19-pandemic was quite relaxed as the prison population was in decline and overcrowding not a problem. However, there was a special problem with fine defaulters, who comprise about 10% of the daily adult German prison population. Short-term prisoners in general are a problem resulting in a large influx of possibly infected people. Since March 2020 all German Federal states stopped (or reduced) incarcerating fine defaulters and some states went further, not executing prison sentences of up to one or even up to three years. The prison population dropped from about 77 per 100,000 inhabitants to 69. Prison conditions, however, worsened because of restricted contacts of prisoners with the outside world. On the other side, access to internet communication was introduced in order to compensate the lockdown of personal visits and of prison leaves. Since June some of the restrictions were repealed, as the pandemic was under control and almost no infections were observed for prisoners. Visits and prison leaves gradually are allowed again in a limited way. Further crime policy considerations to abolish or reduce fine default and other short-term imprisonment are discussed. (COV-008)

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