How prison labor is used in the private sector in Germany

German prisons allow prisoners to work for private companies for a fee of 1-3 euros per hour. In Germany, the hourly minimum wage is 9.60 euros from 1 July. Human rights activists call this situation “pure exploitation”, writes Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, citing independent research group CORRECTIV.

Outside orders are a welcome source of income for prisons. In the correctional institutions of Lower Saxony in 2019, the sales of “entrepreneurial businesses behind bars” exceeded six million euros. This is the name of the workshops where prisoners work. More than one in three jobs in the prisons of this land are related to business activities.

According to the CORRECTIV study, since 2019 alone, more than 500 companies in Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia have applied for the use of prison labor. There are no basic rights for such workers. They manufacture parts for cars, pack household appliances and assemble toys.

The experts asked the land ministries of justice for a list of firms using forced labor. However, they did not receive an answer under the pretext that entrepreneurs “fear for their reputation.” A large food company in Hamm reported that it paid the correctional institution € 10.2 for hourly work, compared to € 1-3 under the law for prisoners.

Forced labor in Germany is prohibited under article 12 of the Basic Law unless it occurs “in the event of imprisonment by court order”. In many federal states, prisoners are actually required to work. This should serve the purposes of social rehabilitation.