Video: '60 Minutes' explores German prison model as possible solution to US prison issues

German prisoners have access to their own keys, weekend leave, and off-site jobs


By C1 Staff

Sunday night’s episode of CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ featured a segment on the German prison system and its stark contrast to the U.S. system. The segment focuses on Bill Whitaker’s interviews with German prisoners and tours of several prison facilities in Germany. The “German fairytale” of prison is, Whitaker notes, an astounding approach to rehabilitation and punishment; and one that includes weekend leave, videogames, and even playing darts. 

In what director of prisons in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Jeorg Jesse calls normalization, life inside prison mirrors life outside of prison, and is an approach that prioritises rehabilitation over punishment.

With over 2 million prisoners in the U.S., American politicians and prison supervisors are looking to Germany for potential prison reform approaches. Not only does Germany spend less on prisons, but its recidivism rate is about half the U.S. rate, according to the segment.

Other differences such as extended training in psychology and conflict management for guards, specialized counseling, and allowing prisoners to have keys to their own room, are both prevalent and successful in Germany.

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