Federal Constitutional Court: Minimum wages for prisoners? | BR24

Manuel C is angry. He is 38 years old and is a trained construction worker. At the Straubing Correctional Facility, he is responsible for construction operations and is responsible for construction sites and staff. But he charges a maximum hourly wage of €2.22: “In my eyes and in the eyes of many prisoners, this is exploitation. I am a trained construction worker, doing the same work I do abroad.”

170 euros for food and toiletries per month

Manuel earns a total of 480 euros per month, about half of which is directly deducted for court costs, which he still repays. He’s the one called a longtime prisoner who’s been in prison for seven years and won’t be released until 2026 at the earliest.

He currently has €170 per month for food and toiletries. He cannot support his two children from his income. His debt is increasing every year in prison, although he works very hard. Manuel sees this as a kind of double punishment.

“This works against rehabilitation. If some prisoners leave here with more debt than they came in – something is wrong.” Prisoner Manuel C.

JVA: Work Serves Rehabilitation

The prison houses an auto repair shop, carpentry, printing, sewing, gardening, construction, and metalworking. As in Straubing, prisoners in all Bavarian prisons have to work in the production sector or in the service sector. According to information from Straubinger JVA, the job is to resettle prisoners and introduce them to a regular working life through an organized daily routine.

Companies like BMW, Playmobil or MTU have parts produced cheaply in prisons. The cooperation is announced on the website of the Ministry of Justice “as an alternative to moving production abroad.” Manuel C still sees the pay as unfair and fights for the legal minimum wage even in prison, “because for years there have been too many highly qualified prisoners where the minimum wage is adequate”.

Prisoners file constitutional complaints

Together with others from Straubing Prison, he has started an online petition with the help of friends and has already found 25,000 supporters. Even three prisoners filed a constitutional complaint.

The truth is that officially imprisoned are not permanent employees, and their work is seen as part of their rehabilitation. The Bavarian Ministry of Justice rejects the minimum wage requirement and resolutely rejects allegations of exploitation – prisoners received clothing, food and housing, as well as payments from the state for unemployment insurance.

The state spends a lot of money on prisoners

They are also exempt from paying detention costs. She writes: “The prison system does not profit from the work of prisoners. The total costs of the prison system amounted to 502 million euros in 2021. This is offset by income from work of just under 35 million.”

In other words: the state spends a lot of money on each prisoner anyway, and the minimum wage of 9.82 euros per hour will exceed all dimensions.

Prison chaplains find higher fair wages

The priests of the Bavarian prison, who know the situation of the inmates well, do not want to comment publicly on the subject, but let it be known that they will find a fair higher salary. For Manuel C, it is also about a kind of appreciation for the work of prisoners. To protect against poverty in old age:

“No pension is paid from this prison work, so I will miss that later in old age.” Prisoner Manuel C.

It is very likely that he will have to apply for a raise when he gets older, according to Manuel C. “With a statutory minimum wage, we would automatically be included in the pension insurance system and this would automatically nullify the double and triple penalty.”

Lawsuits have been dismissed several times in the past

The minimum wage requirement for prison inmates is not new. Complaints about this have been repeatedly denied in the past. Starting today, the Federal Constitutional Court will consider the matter again.

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