Anyone who has repeatedly traveled by bus or train without a ticket and after a verdict cannot pay the fine must serve his replacement prison sentence behind bars again.
The corona-related suspension of the previous procedure ended on Tuesday. Since the alternative prison sentences had been suspended several times since the beginning of the pandemic, the fluctuation in the prisons and thus the risk of infection should be reduced.
“In Berlin it is now to be expected that the number of people who have to serve a prison sentence despite a fine will increase again in the coming weeks,” said a spokeswoman for the judicial administration. In 2019, i.e. before Corona, an average of 318 offenders were constantly serving their substitute prison sentences in house A of the Plötzensee prison. In the first Corona year 2020 there were 168 and in 2021 190.
However, it is not only people who have been convicted of repeatedly driving without a ticket, but also mostly poorer people, homeless people or drug addicts who have been brought to court for minor offenses such as theft or drugs.
The length of the replacement prison sentence depends on the amount of the fine. If it is 40 daily rates of ten euros, the convicted person would have to pay 400 euros and 40 days in prison for the replacement penalty. According to the administration of justice, a detention place costs 200 euros per day.
Ten percent of the prisoners in Germany are serving a substitute prison sentence.
In the pre-Corona year 2019, 46,000 people in Germany were convicted of “cheating benefits”. Cases such as petty theft account for around 60,000. The federal traffic light coalition wants to abolish the replacement prison sentence for driving without a ticket.
It might be downgraded to a misdemeanor. Fines would be far less. But if you don’t pay that either, you’d have to go to jail in the end – and the fine wouldn’t have been paid by that. In general, Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) wants substitute prison sentences to be avoided
“Unfortunately, the new federal government has not yet made a commitment,” said Berlin’s Senator for Justice Lena Kreck (left) on Tuesday. She announced that she would again submit a proposal for a resolution at the conference of justice ministers beginning on Wednesday in Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, with which the federal states would demand that the federal government adjust criminal law.
“The alternative terms of imprisonment show that we still have a lot to do to ensure fair justice,” said Kreck.
Anyone fined for a minor offense “shouldn’t be in jail right now.” There is broad agreement on this. “Unfortunately, however, I have to observe that this agreement has not yet translated into political practice,” said Kreck.
An “alliance for the abolition of substitute imprisonment” wants to hand over a petition with 70,000 signatures to Federal Justice Minister Buschmann at the Justice Ministers’ Conference. According to its own statements, the “Freedom Fund” initiative has already bought 417 people out of custody with the help of donations and paid fines of almost 425,000 euros.