How Germany's Prison System Teaches Us About Human Dignity


Clean sheets, pictures to remind you of home, a space of your own – all things that emphasize the inherent value of human life. This is what German prisons look like, and it’s not because the country is “weak on crime.”

The conditions in German prisons are designed to foster an environment that values human dignity. When a high value is placed on human dignity, their reasoning goes, German prisoners are more likely to improve and, upon release, never return to their old lifestyle. Their focus on rehabilitation translates into a much smaller prison population than the U.S. – about one-tenth the size – and lower recidivism rates.

Correctional officers are also, arguably, better in Germany than they are in the U.S. More stringent standards contribute to this, and has translated into fewer altercations between inmates and staff.

A belief is starting to emerge from the shadows of the fringe into the light of the popular majority that American prisons and the criminal justice system as a whole perpetuate a cycle of crime (especially among poor and minority populations) and has needlessly bloated our prison system.

Maybe it’s time to turn from retribution and turn toward rehabilitation.

“Human dignity shall be inviolable.”

Germany’s Constitution reads “Human dignity shall be inviolable” – a creed we would do well to borrow from and build upon. There is little doubt anymore that our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Koffel Brininger Nesbitt shares this belief and uses the principle of inherent human dignity to guide our representation of the criminally accused. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, we invite you to contact us today to discuss your rights, your options, and your future.