Xenophobia and Racism Overcrowding Germany's Prisons

Welcome to the next installment of an occasional series I like to call Sartor Resartus, in which I report about Germany the way Germans report about the USA:

Xenophobic and Racist Judicial System Leads to Foreigners Overcrowding German Prisons

By Sartor Resartus

STUTTGART (SR Press Agency) -- According to a recent study released by the Justice Ministry of Germany's third-most-populous state, Baden-Württemberg, almost half of the prisoners in its jails are now foreigners, even though foreigners make up just over 10% of the population of that state.

A recent report in the newspaper Die Welt provides the numbers: "Conditions are particularly cramped in prisons: there, 6170 prisoners live in a system designed to hold only 6087 people as of June 2016.... The share of foreigners was 37 percent in 2014, 39 percent in 2015, and 44.6% in March of this year among the 6948 prisoners then in the system." Justice Minister Guido Wolf, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, described the increased in foreign prisoners as a result of the "refugee influx".

Andrew Hammel, a self-proclaimed expert on Germany's legal system whose opinions I will quote extensively without challenge and without seeking an opposing view, said: "Although the number of foreigners living in Baden-Württemberg is only 12%, they make up nearly half of the prison population. This clearly shows a pattern of discriminatory and disproportionate enforcement targeting 'the other'. I've spoken to numerous foreigners who report a pattern of police harassment for trivial or non-existent offenses. German judges, prosecutors, and police are also overwhelmingly ethnic German, and persons of foreign ancestry are under-represented in these positions. This means that they single out foreigners, whether consciously or not, for harsher treatment. This highlights Germany's dark historical legacy, and makes a mockery of the equality proclaimed in the German Basic Law."

What is particularly appalling, Hammel continued, is that "many are refugees. They came to Germany fleeing war and poverty, and now they find themselves mistreated by a justice system that sees them only as a problem and a threat."

In the company of a local activist from the Grey Wolves Turkish social movement, I visited a German prison and talked to some of the inmates. Here, in their own words, unedited and unverified, are their accounts of bias and abuse. The fact that these accounts are unconfirmed, sometimes outlandish, and come from people who have a motive to lie doesn't change the fact that they highlight the grave problems...


Greek Voters Defy the Remorseless Neoliberal Profit Machine


More coverage you probably won't see in German:

ATHENS -- Alexis Panagiorgios used to run a small tailor shop in Psirri, a neighborhood of Athens. Now he lives in a carboard box on a street. 'People used to have money. Dignity. That is all gone now. And all because of the rapacious, relentless, remorseless, heartless turbo-capitalism of the cynical bankers of the USA. Oh wait, no I mean Germany. Sorry about that, I've been a Communist so long it was just force of habit.' Since 2010, the Greek economy has plunged into free-fall, with unemployment nearing 30%. Suicides, depression and divorce have skyrocketed. An entire generation has been robbed of dignity and hope.

Yet just a few hundred kilometers away, German bankers insist that the destruction of the Greek economy must go further. And German politicians, the bankers' faithful helpmeets, are singing the very same song. A cabal of unelected bureaucrats from three international organizations, the troika, insisted in 2010 on savage cuts to Greek public spending. Ignoring the advice of thousands of economists including Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, the troika claimed that cutting government spending in a recession would somehow revive the economy. Yet their cold neoliberal calculation turned out to be completely false, plunging millions of fellow Europeans into deep suffering.

Days ago, the Greeks decided to give the neoliberal economic bosses in Frankfurt a lesson in democracy. They rallied behind a progressive candidate. 'We feel so proud and happy now', Panagiorgos said. 'Finally someone is willing to stand up to the economic bullying of Uncle Sam. Oh wait, I meant Aunt Angela.' Greeks celebrated their escape from the neoliberal straitjacket long into the night...

etc. etc. . Der Ton macht die Musik!

Notorious German Weapons Firm Inks Hyper-Profitable Deal to Sell Deadly Tanks to Unstable Third World Regime

In the latest installment of Sartor Resartus, we take an anxious, hyperventilating look at the German death-machine industry:

DÜSSELDORF -- The hulking white block of the Rheinmetall headquarters dominates the Derendorf neighborhood of Düsseldorf, Germany. Although the building is shrouded in secrecy and access is restricted, there can be little doubt that champagne corks are popping inside. The reason? Rheinmetall has just signed a 3 billion Euro contract (g) to sell almost a thousand ultra-lethal 'Fox' tanks to the authoritarian regime currently in power in oil-rich Algeria. The news sent Rheinmetall's stock soaring, further enriching the thousands of Germans who profit from weapons exports to repressive regimes in the developing world.

Rheinmetall, notorious for murderously exploiting slave labor to build weapons for the Nazis, had to apply to the German government for permission to export the tanks to the crisis-racked regime in Algeria, which only a few years ago was mired in a bloody civil war. But the German government, which constantly lectures other nations on the need to solve problems peacefully, casually rubber-stamped the deal. Spokesmen for the German government invoked the always-convenient specter of terrorism, claiming that the Algerian government was a key ally in the struggle against Al-Qaeda. But many observers are convinced the government was really eyeing the spectacular profits that would further fatten the coffers of one of Germany's richest and most politically influential companies. 

Defenseless Victims: Germany's Lax Justice Sets Child-Rapists Free to Strike Again and Again

Over on Facebook, a German friend of mine pointed to yet another tiresome example of the "tendentious, judgmental, sensationalist" reporting on American in the German press, in this case a Spiegel Online article about veteran healthcare in the US whose first line reads: "The US celebrates its soldiers as heroes -- but once they retire, they're left on their own." All of them, apparently!

I have become careful about the German journalists I talk to, since a majority of them have no interest in actually profiting by (or even listening to) my expertise, but instead just want a soundbite that fits their preconceived notions -- usually of the U.S. as a post-apocalyptic sinkhole of violence and racism. During the orgy of lies that constituted German coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting, I was asked by a journalist from a German public radio station whether the verdict meant it was now 'open season' on young black teens. I had to chuckle.

So, in the name of fair play, I present a new series somewhat in the vein of Sartor Resartus, in which take actual German news stories and present them in the credulous, hyperventilating tone in which so many German journalists write about the USA.

Installment one:

Defenseless Victims: Germany's Lax Justice Sets Rapists Free to Strike Again and Again

DORTMUND - Jürgen S. is a rapist. Over the years, the obese, malodorous 59-year-old electrician from Dortmund has committed violent sex crimes against defenseless children. Yet in December 2010, the German authorities decided to completely stop monitoring him in the community after his last prison stint, trusting the repeat child-rapist to control his urges alone.

He lasted 6 months. In July 2011, he lured a 7-year-old girl into a parking garage and brutally raped her (g). He later confessed the deed, and was sentenced to prison, again. It was yet another horrifying -- and preventable -- debacle for the German criminal justice system: another young, defenseless victim stripped of her innocence and assaulted, all because the gullible German authorities decided Jürgen S. posed no more danger to society. How wrong they were.

Max L., the father of the 7-year-old rape victim, has had enough. He remembers how she returned home after the vicious assault, confused and bleeding. Since then, she has regular nightmares. "She will never be the same. Never. And all because some judge decided to set a known child rapist free to strike again." Holger Lundgren, a mayoral candidate for the German National Democratic Party in Dortmund, agrees. Speaking for many Germans, he says: "We have to take back control of our justice system from these liberal do-gooder judges who never have to face the bloody consequences of their slap-on-the-wrist punishments. Law-abiding citizens deserve a criminal justice system that keeps them safe." It may be because of straight talk like this that the German state is now attempting to ban the political party to which Lundgren belongs (g), using a controversial and frightening provision of the German Constitution.

Germany prides itself on its human rights record and Rechtsstaat, the word for rule of law. Yet in case after case, the German legal system -- staffed largely by unaccountable bureaucrats with lifetime job guarantees -- has failed miserably to protect the safety of Germany's ordinary citizens. Out of touch with ordinary reality, judges apply liberal laws that guarantee even vicious killers and repeat rapists will leave prison to strike again and again. When asked to justify their decisions, they retreat behind a wall of secrecy. They face zero public accountability for decisions that release vicious criminals to destroy yet more lives. On the rare occasions when these functionaries acknowledge the reality of the situation, they routinely accuse the press of "populism" and "yellow journalism" -- simply for reporting the human cost of their decisions.

etc. etc.