Minister of Justice Buschmann is aiming for far-reaching changes in the penal system with his draft law. Substitute prison sentences - often imposed for fare evasion - should be shorter, hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation should become criminally relevant.
According to Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann, anyone who cannot or does not want to pay a fine should not have to spend so much time behind bars in the future. A draft from his house, which was sent to the other departments of the federal government for approval, provides that one day of imprisonment should no longer correspond to one, but to two so-called daily rates. The time behind bars would thus be shorter.
The amount of the respective daily rate depends on the net income of the convicted person. About a third of fines leading to jail for non-payment are for petty theft or fraud. Almost a quarter of the cases involve fare dodgers. A decision as to whether driving without a valid ticket may soon be downgraded from a criminal offense to an administrative offense is not yet to be made in the course of this planned reform. From coalition circles it is still said that this is still being examined.
In order to avoid substitute imprisonment as far as possible, the Federal Minister of Justice wants the enforcement authority to be obliged to inform convicts in good time if they can be permitted to avert substitute custody through community service. In any case, this information should be given in a form that ensures that a person who does not speak German well understands it.
Buschmann hopes that the federal states will go along with this, as this would probably also avoid bottlenecks in prisons and save costs. According to calculations by his ministry in 2019, an occupied penal place cost around 119 euros per day on average across Germany, if the construction costs for the prison are not included. The draft also contains other planned changes in other areas. Among other things, the catalog of reasons to be taken into account when determining the sentence is to be supplemented by “gender-specific” and “against sexual orientation” motives.
This involves hate crimes against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. Severe punishment should also result if a man puts his partner or ex-partner under pressure or does violence to her due to patriarchal patterns of thought. This would be the case - in the sense of the draft bill from the Ministry of Justice - if a man denied his daughter, sister or ex-wife the right to freely choose their life partner. In 2020, 359 women nationwide were victims of a homicide in a partnership, with the statistics here counting attempted and completed acts. 139 women died that year as a result of so-called intimate partner violence.
Judges should also be given more leeway when it comes to instructions that can be issued in the sense of a successful rehabilitation of the perpetrator: for example, in the context of a suspended sentence on probation, a warning with a reservation of punishment or a temporary refraining from prosecution. This may mean directing the person to do community service or to seek therapy.
Buschmann, on the other hand, wants to be more strict about the requirements for placement in a rehabilitation center. The aim of the planned changes here is to concentrate the limited capacities on those addicts who actually need treatment in such a facility. In order to achieve this in the future, the addiction, which is a prerequisite for such accommodation, should be defined more clearly than has been the case up to now.
In addition, there should be a clearly documented causal connection between the tendency to excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or other intoxicating substances and the particular crime for which someone is on trial. The suspension of sentences on probation for the perpetrators accommodated in these facilities should no longer be possible after half of the detention period, but only after two-thirds of the time has elapsed. The Justice Department wants to prevent defendants and their lawyers from trying to achieve placement in a rehab for tactical reasons. If the draft is approved by the cabinet this fall, the reform could come into force next spring - provided the Bundestag and Bundesrat agree.