Those who cannot pay their fine should in future have to serve less time in prison instead. Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) is planning this – and also hopes for savings for the judiciary. From the point of view of Berlin’s Senator for Justice Lena Kreck (left), the system in its current form is expensive and often hits the wrong people.
“In practice, we have to realize that those who cannot pay or work off their fine and therefore have to serve a replacement prison sentence are mentally ill or addicted,” said Kreck of the German Press Agency.
In prison, these people then meet criminals who have been sentenced to prison terms – even though a court has considered a fine to be appropriate in their case. These are set by the court with daily rates that are based on the income of the person concerned. The number of daily rates depends on the severity of the offence. If you cannot or do not want to pay a fine, you have to go to prison instead.
According to a draft by the Federal Ministry of Justice, one day of imprisonment should no longer correspond to one but two daily rates. A side effect: the countries would save money. An occupied prison place cost an average of 157.72 euros per day in 2020, if you add the construction and material investment costs, it was 173.66 euros.
According to the Berlin judiciary, however, the costs per day are 216.78 euros. The costs exceeded the amount of the fine, it said. Prison days can be compensated for by doing community service such as tending parks and green spaces. Kreck wants to expand these possibilities.
A replacement prison sentence often affects people who have traveled by bus or train without a ticket. According to the administration of justice, 315 people were in prison in 2020 because of the corona pandemic, despite various pardons, because they were unable to pay their fine for driving without a ticket.
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A total of 1,418 people were serving a so-called substitute imprisonment at the time. In 2021 there were 305 (1645). In the years before the pandemic, the numbers were significantly higher: in 2018 there were 788 (3046) people, in 2019 there were 673 (2781).