A union for prisoners? (the culture that is Germany)

by on June 4, 2014 at 2:21 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Law | Permalink

A group of inmates at a prison in Berlin have set up the world’s first union for prisoners, in an attempt to campaign for the introduction of a minimum wage and a pension scheme for convicts.

Inmates at Berlin Tegel jail, where the union is based, work regular shifts in kitchens and workshops, which in the view of the union makes them “de facto employees, just like their colleagues outside the prison gates”.

“Prisoners have never had a lobby working for them. With the prisoners’ union we’ve decided to create one ourselves,”said Oliver Rast, a spokesman for the group.

In Germany, as in Britain, prisoners are excluded from national pension schemes and the national minimum wage, which in Germany’s case is planned to come into effect in 2015 at €8.50 (£6.90) an hour. Inmates at Berlin Tegel earn between €9 and €15 per day, depending on their qualifications.

The Berlin union, which is registered as an association without legal status and claims to have collected numerous signatures within the prison, criticised the exclusion of prisoners from minimum wage plans.

It said the lack of pension schemes meant that many elderly inmates were released straight into poverty.

There is more here, via Mark Thorson.

BC June 4, 2014 at 2:57 am

They should demand open emmigration.

genauer June 4, 2014 at 3:05 am

The right to bear arms, too .

This culture is not Germany. It is Berlin. We should resurrect the wall around it and then rent it out to Poland or Russia or the highest bidding dictator with a verified real authorian streak : – )

Chip June 4, 2014 at 3:12 am

If they want to extract a price for their labour then the victims can extract a price for the crimes.

From the remainder, the prisoners can pay for their food, shelter and healthcare.

Wonder how much they will have left over?

genauer June 4, 2014 at 5:14 am

the typically cited numbers are, that we have a little less than 60 000 inmates (compared to 80 Mio population about 0.07%, compared to the US 1 – 2%, see also http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gefangenenrate.

The costs are estimated to be about 30 000 Euro per year, dwarfing whatever their work is worth.

Berlin, with its stock of former draft dodgers, “alternatives”, has plenty of people who think, whatever crime they commit is of course all the fault of society

Urso June 4, 2014 at 9:27 am

1-2% sounds very high – that may include both prisoners and former prisoners? In any event much higher than Germany’s. Also there are individual states where the numbers are that high.

wiki June 4, 2014 at 3:17 am

I have no idea how well German prisons are run, but in the U.S. the system cannot prevent rampant rape, gang control, and other sorts of inmate abuse by fellow prisoners and by guards. Even if one does not consider the rights of the victims, I doubt that a worker’s union is high on the list of prisoner’s rights that anyone should be concerned with.

genauer June 4, 2014 at 5:20 am

There have been a very few cases of documented abuse, some murder, some more allegations.

But I would say, that most people, like me, consider german prisons as reasonably run.

Of course we have our share of crazies too, last fall some brain damaged asylum seekers in Munich went on a hunger strike in Munich to demand a change of our constitution, or else.

The fraction of women is about 5%, foreigners around 50% (vs 12% of the population), dependent how you define them (e.g. “Russlanddeutsche”).

prior_approval June 4, 2014 at 7:04 am

Thankfully, Uli Hoeneß is just a tax dodging (to the tune of 28.5 million euros) native born millionaire and former president of FC Bayern serving his 3 and 1/2 year sentence, and not one of those “Russlanddeutsche”.

Otherwise, can one imagine what sort of nasty things would say about such a crook?

GiT June 4, 2014 at 4:43 am
Bill June 4, 2014 at 7:16 am

The risk of a union in prison is that it could become the front for a gang.

Not all social is good social.

Urso June 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

Maybe that’s the solution to prison gangs in the US. We’ll certify them under the NLRA – bury them in the pile of paperwork so deep they want have time to commit crimes.

Nick_L June 4, 2014 at 10:17 am

The idea of prisoners pensions does however fit in with the idea of a guaranteed minimum income that’s been floating around. In addition, for prisoners who are facing release at the very end of their working lives, exactly who is being punished and for what? I doubt that it benefits society very much to have old age pensioners who have served their time, to be on the streets and destitute. Interesting idea that someone in a prison is forming a rights group for people who are free (or will be).

JWatts June 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

Is this really the case in Germany? In the US prisoners are entitled, at a minimum, Supplemental Social Security if they are of eligible retirement age.

Willitts June 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

Sounds like Germany has opportunities for gang leaders.

The last line is quatsch unless Germany’s extensive welfare state won’t support convicts.

Donald A. Coffin June 4, 2014 at 11:05 am

Prisoners’ unions have at least one precursor in a work of fiction. In Rex Stout’s “Some Buried Caesar” (a Nero Wolfe mystery novel), Archie Goodwin (narrator and assistant to Wolfe) is arrested, and while in the county jail, organizes the Crowfield County Prisoner’s Union. Check out their list of demands if you like. (And I always liked the CCPU acronym.)

genauer June 4, 2014 at 11:49 am

@ Nick_l, JWatts, Willits,

of course former prisoners in Germany are entitled to social minimum payments / pensions, universal health care (exactly like mine, and I am not complaining).

The future problem is to deport foreigners to their home countries, in order to not let them benefit from better conditions after going criminal here.

That would be really perverse.

And this was just a hilarious story in the English guardian, but not in any german media.

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