What percentage of prison guards are corrupt?

The overview - Journal for ecumenical encounters and international cooperation

Just off to jail? (Editorial)

At the beginning of the new millennium, around eight million people are in prison around the world. Their number has grown steadily in recent years, many prisons are completely overcrowded, and new ones are even being built. Where there is fear of crime and violence, the idea that the perpetrators can be hidden behind walls gives relief: "Lock them up and throw away the key". Hardly anyone knows - or wants to know - what it looks like in prisons.
Even those who have no sympathy for convicted delinquents should be shocked when looking at the statistics or in some prisons. There are many people in the prisons who may not even belong there.

by Renate Wilke-Launer

The human rights organization Human RightsWatch In its annual report for 1999, it lists 19 countries by name in which more than 50 percent of the prisoners are prisoners on remand, i.e. have not yet been legally convicted. In India, a particularly shocking case recently preoccupied the Supreme Court and the public: a man suffering from schizophrenia spent 34 years in detention without trial before being transferred to a hospital and now to a home for the elderly.

In many Third World countries, however, juvenile prisoners on remand and offenders end up in adult prison; there they are introduced - usually quite brutally - into the criminal world. Women make up only five percent of prisoners worldwide; they usually sit in prison for minor offenses such as shoplifting, because they allowed sex for money, were exploited by men (for example as drug couriers) or defended themselves against abuse. In December 1999, the Kenyan Commission on Human Rights submitted an investigation into female prisoners, according to which almost all women questioned were street vendors, prostitutes or had illegally brewed alcohol. How poor and violent the living conditions of some women are is shown by the fact, observed in some US women's prisons, that inmates there can literally recover from the hard life in freedom with comparatively good food and without violent attacks.

If you compare the conditions of detention around the world, you can see similarities but also differences. What Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela observed is true all over the world. In his "Letters to Olga", Havel noted what imprisonment means for relationships among the people there: "Everything here is much more elementary, in some respects: social relationships and mechanisms that are hidden in life outside and masked in complex ways appear inside completely naked. Everything is exposed as it is, abruptly, transparently. Everything can be seen with great clarity, like in a convex mirror. " Nelson Mandela has analyzed what closeness and a forced departure from the outside mean: "Often you have lived with someone there for months under extremely intimate circumstances and then you never see them again. There is something dehumanizing about it because it forces you to feel more and more more confined to yourself. " "Prison," Mandela writes elsewhere in his autobiography, "not only robs people of freedom, it also tries to steal their identity. Everyone wears the same clothes, eats the same food, adheres to the same daily routine A prison is by definition a purely authoritarian state that does not tolerate any independence or individuality. "

So the imprisonment itself is difficult to deal with. In the best case, it remains with exclusion and external control, there is even help in the form of therapy and vocational training, improvement was initially mentioned, then rehabilitation later. But detention is far more often associated with horror: overcrowding, unbearable conditions, arbitrariness and violence determine everyday life. In addition to the harsh prison regime, there is violence from fellow prisoners. Those who are newly admitted are first humiliated, even forced into a pecking order through rape. Groups of prisoners have deadly enmity with other inmates, united only in their hatred of the state and its prison guards.