Newsletter 114 of December 3, 2022

Action alliance against housing shortage and urban degradation, circular 114

Substitute imprisonment – fighting against the poor, instead of fighting against poverty

Those who are sentenced to a fine and do not pay go to jail. The women and men concerned were sentenced to a fine because the offenses they were charged with were more or less minor: minor property offenses, drug possession and driving without a ticket.

Moderated by Martin Stankowski, Dr. Nicole Bögelein from the Institute of Criminology at Cologne University, Petra Hastenteufel from the OASE and former NRW Minister of Justice Dr. Peter Biesenbach provided information about the substitute prison sentence at the Karl Rahner Academy on November 30, 2022.

Nicole Bögelein conveyed the scope of this social scandal: although it is known on the respective cut-off dates that “only” 10% of all inmates in the penal system in the Federal Republic are in custody because they have not paid a fine. But over the year, more than half of all new inmates in the penal institutions are so-called substitute prisoners. She spoke of 56,000 men and women. A very German phenomenon, as Martin Stankowski was able to add with figures from neighboring European countries.

Ms. Bögelein urgently referred to a study that revealed that 15% of all people who have to serve a substitute prison sentence are suicidal – with the result that some of them die in custody.

Petra Hastenteufel told of women and men on the street whom she has personally met as a street worker and whose survival conditions are closely linked to their criminalization. Impressive was her report of a research project of the Catholic University of Applied Sciences on the “space utilization behavior of people in homelessness”. People on the street travel distances every day that people with a home cannot even imagine, because they have almost everything within their own four walls: Sleeping space, toilet, washing facilities, washing machine, computer, refrigerator, kitchen, TV, etc. There are so many unaffordable KVB journeys for the homeless that no one was surprised to learn from Nicole Bögelein that “transport fraud” accounts for 20% of all fines and that overall the proportion of homeless people among those sentenced to a substitute custodial sentence is extremely high.

At last count, 13.8% of all prisoners were without a fixed address at the time of incarceration. This means that they are not only serving time for unpaid fines – like the poor with apartments also, who make up the majority in prisons.

Dr. Peter Biesenbach explained that the penal system was supposed to resocialize offenders, but that was not what judges had in mind when sentencing them to fines. Ten years ago, he had already launched an initiative to abolish alternative custodial sentences, but had failed in the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament) because of the majority conditions determined by his own party, the CDU.

He recalled how driving without a ticket could become a mass offense – namely from the time when conductors on buses and trains were abolished. This is often neglected when talking about the fact that in the capitalist economic system profits are privatized and losses are socialized.

Unmentioned was the fact that another mass crime has the same history. When self-service stores emerged and fewer and fewer saleswomen became responsible for ever larger areas of goods in department stores, this theft escalated. However, given the low wages, it was also committed by the store’s own staff, and not just by homeless poor people.

At least half of all homeless people are addicted. Some became homeless because of their addiction, others became addicted because of homelessness. When hashish, opium and heroin emerged in Germany, as in other European countries, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, repressive drug policies attempted to make society drug-free. In the 1990s, in view of the failure of the “war on drugs,” Jörn Foegen, the director of the Cologne correctional facility, had repeatedly stated publicly that he could close down a third of all cells if there were a drug policy in Germany oriented toward reducing suffering. The distribution of “decent heroin” to addicts, including many homeless people, which he called for, was not passed by the Bundestag until 2008, but only a tiny minority benefits from it. 

Ex-Justice Minister Biesenbach stated what everyone present that evening knew: Police and justice cannot fight poverty and addiction.

This insight has not reached the federal government. The traffic lights do not want to abolish the alternative custodial sentence, but only to cut it in half. This means that tens of thousands of poor men and women nationwide will continue to be forced into prisons to serve a substitute prison sentence.

Even during the minimal reform of Hartz IV into a citizen’s income, it became clear that the FDP voted with the CDU to prevent the first six months of unemployment from becoming sanction-free.

Since there are still no majorities in the parliaments for the decriminalization of the poor, initiatives are emerging at the grassroots level, which were also presented that evening at the Karl Rahner Academy.

Reinhold Goss called on the Green district members’ meeting for the Green council faction to use its influence to ensure that the KVB “does not file criminal charges for fraudulent use of services under § 265a StGB (the German Penal Code) (driving without a ticket) until a currently emerging federal law comes into force.”

The Stadt-Anzeiger had reported on 30. 11. 2022 about Ms. Wotzlaw, the head of the JVA Cologne: “Wotzlaw thinks nothing of a so-called freedom fund, with the help of which affected persons are ransomed from prison.”

At the beginning of the event, Hans Mörtter from Vringstreff had announced the founding of the regional freedom fund “Freikaufen Köln” with a flyer. At the end he could communicate from a discussion with Mrs. Wotzlaw that she is very well ready to help to redeem Ersatzfreiheitsstrafler in the Cologne JVA. The proceeds of the evening went to “Freikaufen Köln”.

The Cologne regional group of the nationwide network Abolitionism is planning an event next spring with former prison warden Thomas Galli on prison abolition.   and

Administrative reform and OMZ

On December 1, 2022, the administrative reform of the city of Cologne was discussed at the Domforum.

Andre Salentin, the spokesman for the homeless with a future, had the opportunity to ask about the future of the OMZ and also to demand houses for homeless with dogs. Mrs. Reker answered him. From minute 59

Lockable single rooms for all

Homelessness is a human rights violation

It’s great what the city is doing to accommodate refugees. If the city continues to be afraid to seize the vacant apartments: Why can’t they add a few containers for the homeless at all these sites with housing for refugees – or anywhere else in the city in parking lots? It is possible to accommodate all homeless people in lockable single rooms, as decided by the Social Committee on January 14, 2021.

Prof. Dr. Rau, why don’t you want to?

Or why are you not allowed to?

Luisa Schneider was a speaker at a workshop held by the city of Cologne to combat homelessness and forcefully conveyed why homeless people in particular must have a right to privacy and intimacy.  

Health for the homeless

The CAYA practice provides basic health care to homeless and needy people in Cologne.

The city of Cologne’s health department reported 8,645 appointments with homeless people in 2020

Cologne working group “Health for the Homeless”.
A team of volunteer doctors, nurses and drivers stand at Appellhofplatz every Monday and Wednesday evening with an ambulance provided by the City of Cologne Health Department, offering primary medical care.

Broadcasts, reports, news

Night Café: End of the Road? About people without a home

Berlin: Under a red-red-green government, of all things, numerous left-wing projects were evicted. What future do free spaces have in the city?!5894992&s=Marie+Frank/

Social housing
The leading association of the housing industry, GdW, also expects that tens of thousands of new rental apartments will not be built as planned. Internal surveys suggest that “about 70 percent of all planned projects will either be completely canceled” or “at least put on hold for a longer period of time,” GdW President Axel Gedaschko told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

As a reminder, Dirk Riße reported on poverty and homelessness in Cologne, using Wiener Platz as an example, on Sept. 8, 2021:

Official information on the real estate market in NRW


03.12.2022, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Rally against vacancies: “Apartments for homeless and refugees”, corner of Berrenrather Str. / Friedrich Engels Str.

10.12.2022, 13:00, Demo “Enough is enough”, Ottoplatz

15.12.2020 Nationwide day of action by MietenStopp.

For a city without homelessness

For a city without evictions

For a city without drug deaths

For a city without violence against women and children

For a city without deportations

For a city without poverty

December 3, 2022

Klaus Jünschke and Rainer Kippe


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