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Mercy at Christmas time: Over 90 prisoners receive amnesty

Weihnachten im Gefängnis

It's almost a tradition: in the weeks leading up to Christmas, prisoners are released early. The so-called Christmas amnesty offers inmates precious time.

According to the Senate Department for Justice, a total of more than 90 prisoners will benefit this year. Last year, 170 inmates were released from prison early at Christmas. In 2021 and 2020, there were 141 each, while 170 were released early in 2019. The Senate Department for Justice pointed out that these are provisional figures. The final numbers for the Christmas amnesty, as it is correctly called, will not be available until the beginning of 2024.

Amnesty to help with reintegration

Early release is intended to offer prisoners who would have been released around the turn of the year anyway a nice holiday celebration and help with their reintegration. The conditions are strict: only prisoners who have not attracted negative attention in prison and have not served a long prison sentence are eligible. It must also be ensured that they have a roof over their heads. This year in Berlin, prisoners who would have been released between mid-November and the beginning of January 2024 were eligible.

Prisoners released from Heidering and Plötzensee prisons

According to the justice system, the majority of offenders released early were serving time for theft offenses (24). Other cases involved fraudulent acquisition of benefits (16), mostly people who had traveled by bus or train without a ticket. Some cases involved insults (6), drug offenses (6) or driving without a license (4). According to the information provided, most of the prisoners were serving time in the Heidering prison. According to the justice authorities, 25 men there fulfilled the conditions for early release, while the figure for Plötzensee prison was 23.

Christmas amnesty common in most German states

Prisoners are also released early in most other federal states thanks to the Christmas amnesty program. Last year, according to figures at the time, more than 1,000 offenders were released early from prison nationwide by mid-December. As a matter of principle, Bavaria never grants pardons at the end of the year.

Author: dpa/
Publication date: 27 November 2023
Last updated: 27 November 2023

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