By Julian Loevenich

    Ten square meters instead of freedom! Actually, Berlin should be a new start for Paul K. (41, name changed) after his criminal past in Cottbus. Now he is in the JVA Plötzensee.

    Why? “I’ve fared 29 times,” he says. 1800 euros fine have come together. money he doesn’t have. That’s why he has to serve out the debt for 120 days: as a substitute imprisonment. And it’s hotly debated!

    Because: “It mainly affects the poor,” says Berlin’s Senator for Justice Lena Kreck (41, left). Unemployed, homeless, people without school qualifications, drug addicts.

    Paul K. (41) is traumatized by an accident.  He doesn't get help in substitute custody

    Paul K. (41) is traumatized by an accident. He doesn’t get help in substitute custody Photo: Ralf Gunther

    Prisoners spend an average of three months behind bars. Many need professional help. But the resources are lacking for this.

    When things go badly, they come out of prison with even more mental health problems.

    Also, the jails are full. 90 percent of the places for alternative custody in the JVA Plötzensee are currently occupied. And there is a risk of even more short-term cracks: Because of Corona, the penalty was suspended for many, which will now be made up for. If in doubt, they should be distributed to other prisons.

    Absurd: Berlin costs around 225 euros for an inmate per day of detention. In the case of Paul K., the capital paid 27,000 euros – because of 1,800 euros in debt!

    Scrub for freedom: Prisoners can shorten the substitute detention time by working

    Scrub for freedom: Prisoners can shorten the substitute detention time by working Photo: Ralf Gunther

    Completely incomprehensible to him: “I just did the dodge, but I lost everything and now it’s costing the state so much money.”

    Kreck sees the problem in the law. Her approach: “Freight driving must be decriminalized.” Not just downgrading from a criminal offense to an administrative offence, as others are demanding. But completely remove from the law.

    Senator Lena Kreck (41, left) is

    Senator Lena Kreck (41, left) is “cautiously optimistic” that substitute detention will be reformed Photo: Ralf Gunther

    Then there would be space in the prisons – and money! “I’m happy to give that to the social budget,” says Kreck.

    That would help people like Paul K. before they end up in prison.

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