Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

German Prison Destroyed

Many people in Germany had good reason to celebrate in March. Early on Saturday, March 27, a series of explosions destroyed most of a newly completed high-tech prison that was to be put to use in May, 1993. The prison in Weiterstadt, close to Frankfurt, took eight years to build and cost 250 million Marks ($155 million). It was to hold 500 prisoners and was to be a multi-use prison, including units for deportees, a high-security unit for women, and for prisoners awaiting trial. The German state has made much of Weiterstadt's "humane conditions" - a model for a new corrections policy. The latter is true, Weiterstadt would have embodied the latest in high-tech incarceration. The prisoners were to be placed in so-called "living groups" of 10 to 20 prisoners, in single cells with a common room and a small kitchen. The cells and the group rooms were to be monitored with video cameras and microphone/speakers.

The "living-groups" were to be put together by social workers, psychotherapists, etc., and were to operate by a system of "punishment-reward." The prisoner, on his or her arrival, would be assessed according to his or her will to resist or adapt. Depending on the evaluation, the prisoner would be sent to a group varying from total conformity to "non-adaptation." Far from being "collective," these "living-groups" would instill competition between the prisoners which would undermine solidarity among the prisoners. By a "work-therapy" (i.e. forced labor) and other psychological measures, the prisoners would come to see themselves as criminals or insane. But by adopting the "social values" of the therapists and other prison workers - the values of the prison system, the state, and their corporate bosses - they would rise in the hierarchy among the prisoners, i.e. gain privileges and benefits that then could be lost if they did not behave as desired. There can be no system of rewards without a corresponding set of punishments. Total isolation in the high security wing would be the ultimate penalty.

However, there is not much left of the detention center now. The explosions destroyed the administration building, much of the high-tech security systems, as well as four "residential" buildings. Damages have been estimated at 100 million Marks ($62 million) - 60 million Marks for reconstruction, 40 million for the alarm system. Furthermore, it is predicted that corrections planning would be set back four years as a result of the bombing.

The commandso of the Red Army Faction (RAF) released a communique a few days after the action that demanded the release of the remaining RAF prisoners along with other prison-related demands. But the mass media only printed part of the communique and, interestingly enough, the media did not print one of the demands calling for the release of all HIV+ prisoners.

The commandos took extreme care to avoid injuries to 11 guards who were captured at about 1:30 AM, bound and gagged and driven to a nearby field where they were left in a van. The buildings were searched before detonation and the commandos even put up warning posters on the outside walls of the prison.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login