English translation of our petition for the abolition of the substitute prison sentence

Abolish punishment of poverty!
Amnesty for prisoners affected by “Ersatzfreiheitsstrafen” sentences now!

The Ersatzfreiheitsstrafe is a prison sentence handed out to people who are unable to pay fines. This means that people without the means to pay fines are punished more harshly than people who can. 
With the COVID-19 pandemic, focus has been on social distancing in order to protect the population. This also has to apply to people in prison. We therefore call for the abolition of substitute custodial sentences!

Prisoners in the penal system are especially vulnerable to infection. This is not only due to a higher than average number of prisoners having pre-existing medical conditions, but also because infections spread quickly due to confinement and a lack of adequate and accessible medical care. Aside from ethical reasons, now it’s important to reduce the number of prisoners to protect against infection.

In a first step, prison sentences due to a monetary panelty have already been suspended nationwide, with the suspensions differing from state to state. Some states are not accepting new prisoners with these sentences, others aren’t accepting new prisoners with less than six months to serve, and some prisons are releasing people – but all of these people must serve their terms later.

The next step must be an amnesty. The mere postponement of a prison sentence or the interruption of imprisonment creates an extremely precarious situation for those concerned. They are forced to wait to serve these sentences, unable to start afresh or make any stable structures – difficult at the best of times, and with the restrictions or hiatus of services that could help them in light of COVID-19, impossible.

Not only is an amnesty more ethical than suspended sentences, it’s also logistically better.

In the long term, mere suspension would only lead to a backlog of prison sentences, which would lead to overcrowding in the prisons. Our aim is to solve this problem now instead of delaying it for the future.

The Ersatzfreiheitsstrafen hits the poorer sections of the population particularly hard, and the number of those who cannot pay is likely to increase in the future due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Senate Administration of Justice’s response to a parliamentary question by Green Party member Petra Vandrey, more than half of all Ersatzfreiheitsstrafen prison sentences in Berlin prisons last year were for fraudulently obtaining benefits, many of them, for example, for repeated use of public transport without a ticket.
The health risk that prisoners currently face in the penitentiary system is very high. Exposing people to such a risk due to a lack of economic resources is not acceptable under any circumstances.

We call for the abolition of substitute prison sentence!
We demand the amnesty for all prisoners with substitute prison sentences!
We demand an amnesty for all outstanding arrest warrants on the basis of a substitute prison sentence!

To sign the petition, please go here:
You’ll also find the german version of the above text on that page.

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