Forks put in after and kicked – how violent it really is in prisons

forks put in after and kicked - how violent it really is in prisons

"Tortures in jail", "excesses in the cell, "prisoner abuses fellow prisoners" – the series of headlines from the last years about beatings and rapes in german prisons is long.Attacks on prison staff are not uncommon, but assaults between prisoners are even more frequent. "Violence behind bars is everyday life", says rene muller, chairman of the association of prison officers (bsbd). "And it has increased, as reports from our state associations show." In the correctional facility in bamberg, too, the situation seems to be bad.

One of the worst cases of brutality in the cell is being tried by the ulm district court. In the coming week the verdict is to be made. The defendant is a 19-year-old who is serving a sentence for various violent offenses at the ulm correctional facility (JVA). There he is said to have tortured fellow prisoners on several occasions, one of them in a particularly abusive manner (file reference: 3 kls js 23303/17).

Severe abuse in ulm prison

The main victim is a 61-year-old prisoner who was beaten repeatedly. According to the indictment, the 19-year-old forced the man to undress, stuck the handle of a fork in his anus and kicked him in the body. The 61-year-old subsequently suffered an abdominal wound that was prolonged. He was given an artificial intestinal outlet.

When he described his suffering to the court, he was close to tears. In prison, he is said to have initially endured his torture without complaint for fear of his attacker. The prison only became aware of the incident when the wounds on the victim’s face could no longer be seen. When a doctor examined him, he did not initially complain of pain either, the prison management claimed. The life-threatening internal injuries were only discovered later.

Increasing frequency and intensity of violence

Almost incomprehensible: the older and practically defenseless prisoner had been deliberately placed with the young perpetrator of the violence. It was thought that the younger one would rather compete with people of the same age than take advantage of the older one, said JVA director ulrich schiefelbein to the ulm-based "sudwest presse". "We had hoped that the 61-year-old would be virtually a fatherly and pacifying influence. Unfortunately this went wrong."

"Not only the frequency, but also the intensity of violence in the penal system has increased", says rene muller of the federation of correctional officers. "In north rhine-westphalia, one of our colleagues had a piece of window glass shoved between his ribs. Another was scalded with hot water." Notwithstanding such threats to their own safety, it is clearly one of the duties of correctional officers to prevent violence between prisoners.

There are no uniform federal statistics on this. The execution of justice is the responsibility of the states, which record acts of violence behind bars differently. "And there is rarely any funding for scientific studies of prison violence and its causes" says professor thomas bliesener, director of the criminological research institute of lower saxony (KFN). Most recently, in 2012, the institute was able to present a study in 33 prisons in five federal states that received a great deal of attention throughout germany: one in four prisoners reported physical assaults. Experts believe that little has changed since then.

Violence is not even recorded in many cases

Violence among prisoners is usually only officially recorded "if the consequences are significant, such as incapacity to work", according to the ministry of justice in baden-wurttemberg. In the 17 prisons in the southwest, there was an increase in such crimes in 2017 to 87 from 75 the previous year. However, the balance sheet for 2018 could have been better, after "only" the first six months 32 acts of violence were registered.

The downward trend is "a hopeful sign", says ministry spokesman steffen tanneberger. He points out that the state government has made additional positions for law enforcement officers possible: 67 in the 2017 budget and 151 more in the 2018/19 budget.

This is the right way to go, says BSBD chairman muller. "We need more manpower because that is the life insurance for the staff and also for the prisoners." A total of 38,000 employees work in german correctional facilities. "If we want to do full justice to all tasks, we need up to 5,000 more positions."

But new positions also had to be filled. Suitable applicants are hard to find. The pay and the possibility of being called up hardly do justice to the tough demands of prison jobs, complains the interest group. Muller: "if I have the opportunity to earn better money, I certainly won’t go into law enforcement."

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