Hamburg, Germany: Letter from One of the Park Bench 3 from Holstenglacis Prison
September 18, 2019by actforfreedom
Saturday August 10, 2019
Hello everyone !
It has now been a little over a month since we three of the Park Bench were arrested and, in a second time, two of us were taken into custody. In this letter, I would like to describe a little bit about my personal situation, here in jail. I can not say anything about the charges or the progress of the court process, because we can not communicate between people involved. I can only agree with the council not to indulge in speculation, gossip and panic.
The solidarity and support we receive here are wonderful and breathtaking. The many letters, the words of greetings, the photos and the gather give us strength and confidence. You are awesome.
Now, preventive detention. This means, here, at least during the first months, 23 hours of confinement in 10 square meters, with bed, table, chair, wardrobe, toilet and sink. An hour’s walk in the courtyard, in my case with the other prisoners on my floor, alternately morning or afternoon. We wake up at 6:30, with a loud alarm, lunch is at 11:30, dinner is served at 16:30 and must also be enough for breakfast, because in the morning there is only hot water or tea. Food is usually enough to make ends meet, but those who want a balanced diet depend on the “canteen” to buy things from the prison. Every Wednesday, the lists of orders, in German language, are collected the next day. Saturday, we will get our order. It’s not exactly cheap and it’s paid with the money from our account at the prison. On top of that there is the money we had in our pocket at the time of the arrest, the money sent from the outside and our insignificant salary, if we work during preventive detention. Unlike detention following a conviction, here work is not an obligation and we work mainly in prison services – cooking, cleaning, painting, laundry ….
Other “privileges” – a rental radio, a rental television, participation in sports groups, discussion circles, courses, etc. must be requested from the school management and, of course, all the prison bureaucracy works only in German. Processing of these requests takes at least a few weeks. The prison guards are extremely abrupt and all information on daily life in prison must be drawn through their noses, the questions annoy them and they give answers reluctantly and in anger; only a few speak English.
The registration procedure, including naked bending, the first night in the “observation cell”, where you take off your civilian clothes and they put you in a cell where the light stays on all night, as well as that the disconcerting marathon through the establishment, looks like an initiation, which must make you understand that now you are part of a judicial process that must be administered, nothing more. A humiliating experience. After dark in the observation cell, one recovers his civilian clothes; this is probably a small exception, because in many other remand prisons, the norm is the clothes of the establishment.
The clear majority of people I meet here are imprisoned for drug-related offenses or so-called drug-related offenses, and either do not have a German passport or have a another nationality in addition to the German one, which explains the danger of flight. Non-German-speaking prisoners are often exposed to the condescending ignorance of guards, who often carry racist underpinnings. In the early days, the bureaucracy of the jail was already very opaque for me, who is accustomed to the illusion of German order. It becomes quite clear that the legally stated purpose of pre-trial detention, that is to say that the persons concerned by the “guarantee of procedure” are there, is only one aspect among the useful elements of pretrial detention.The purpose of these harassing conditions, of which I can describe here only partially the level, are clearly the maximum uncertainty, humiliation, isolation and discipline. This is especially true for the first few weeks – before we can phone, write letters, talk; for many days, one is delivered to oneself, with only a pen and paper, for 23 hours. The first opportunity to get out of jail is still two weeks after incarceration. No surprise therefore, if it is precisely these first weeks that make prison a factory that works perfectly for the purpose of producing accusations (often false), confessions (often hasty) and successful convictions (for the State). In this way, this system is constantly legitimized.
In addition to the people who are imprisoned here during the proceedings and who often leave quickly because they admit, sway or because the preliminary hearing gives a lenient result, I meet here many convicts who are fined pecuniary form of this called “substitution penalty.” Who does not pay a fine, at one point receives a prison warrant and at the next police check ends in. A day in detention is therefore a fixed daily rate, I heard here figures between 6 and 10 euros per day. Those lucky get in touch with friends or relatives, who then pay all or part of the fine, which can be deducted from the length of incarceration. Those who have no one serve their debts in prison. People who are in detention for an alternative sentence are not allowed to work, even if many of them would like to do so, to exchange a pittance for a few days of anticipated freedom.
The list of possible examples, anecdotes that can only enrage, is of course quite long and beyond the scope of this letter.
If we take a closer look, we will notice that the argument often made, that the jail is a mirror of society, is undoubtedly true. Not only do I encounter, of course, the same cowardice, the same racism, the same lack of solidarity and the indifference that we find on the outside. The same mechanisms of exclusion, privilege, discipline, coercion and exploitation, which cover such a support role for the order of this world, are concentrated as if under a magnifying glass. to inculcate people imprisoned here, and with an intensive course, the way to walk right.
The fact that concepts such as integration, discipline (or disciplinary measures) or good behavior, found in almost all the coercive institutions of this society, be it school, office, labor, social service (in many cases, certainly not all) or even prison, and all of which have a military background, reveals that none of these aspects of domination and control can be considered independently others.
Those who have a fundamental problem with authority and domination, unless they have an ideologically different variant of a coercive and disciplined society in mind, should not be silent about these correlations.
When the state imprisons us, as opposed to its regime, it does so for the same reasons that it has to imprison the homeless who have not paid their fine for a bet of vodka in the supermarket or those those who, because of a plantation of grass and their family name supposedly belonging to the false “big Arab family,” are sentenced to a much heavier penalty than their blond accomplices.
To be bound to certain prisoners and to feel solidarity with them is quite understandable and for me it is a fundamental element of a real solidarity, which must for me have a character of reciprocity. A culture of prisoner support and assistance to those affected by repression would, however, be at a premium for further integrating repressive state attacks into a general analysis of the relations of domination.
Our imprisonment is not a particular injustice, but a necessary consequence of the logic that this world works. And we must put an end to this logic, for the liberation of all!
A warm and supportive embrace!
Until all are free!
One of the Park Bench 3
Attack Note: The prison (UHA) in Hostelglacis, Hamburg, is for people in pre-trial detention (and those locked up for unpaid fines). In Germany, in prisons for convicts (JVA) work is compulsory, seemingly apparently with rates (and wages) worthy of industrial workers of the nineteenth century…