Just what happens when you’re sentenced to time in prison?

When do you get arrested?

When people break the law and get caught, they normally get arrested. You might have seen it in a movie before, like when somebody robs a bank, sells drugs, beats somebody up, or even kills a person — and there are, of course, lots of other offences that you can get arrested for. Then you’ll have to appear in court at some point. If the court’s worried about suspects fleeing or destroying evidence, they may be detained while they await trial. During this time, they can meet with their lawyer and prepare for the trial.

Breakout and arrest…

Listen to what "SchwarzeKatze" experienced, her father even escaped from prison:

How does the court reach a verdict?

During the trial, the court decides whether it thinks the accused has actually committed the crime and what their punishment should be. To help the court reach a verdict — that means make a decision — it hears from witnesses and looks at all the available evidence. Trials can vary in length. Some last just a day while others can last months. When the court reaches its verdict, suspects are either declared innocent and can go home or they’re convicted. Whether they’re sent to prison depends on how serious the crime was. Sometimes, they just have to pay a fine. And then there are lots of cases where defendants are given probation. That means they remain free, but have to regularly check in with the police or their probation officer and absolutely mustn’t do anything else illegal or they’ll be sent to prison after all.

Who ends up in which prison?

If somebody does something in Baden-Wuerttemberg, they normally go to prison in Baden-Wuerttemberg, too. Likewise, if the crime takes place in Schleswig-Holstein, they’ll serve their sentence in a prison in Schleswig-Holstein. You normally get sent to a prison in the federal state where you committed the crime. That’s why your Mum or Dad might be at a prison that’s a long way from where you live. It makes visiting them really difficult.

What about being released from prison?

Most inmates are released once they’ve served about two thirds of their sentence. For example, if they were sentenced to 6 years, they get out after 4 years. The remaining sentence, so 2 years in our example, is served on parole. It’s for the court to decide.

The first time after release is not easy, and former inmates need a lot of understanding. That's how it was for "Simmi:

After discharge…

Lots of inmates spend between 2 and 4 years in prison. It feels like quite a long time, especially for children. You will have grown up and your Mum or Dad who’s been in prison didn’t get to see the changes up close. It’s good to talk to each other a lot. After all, your parent who’s been in prison used to know you well when you were little, but they don’t know as much about you as an older child or teenager quite yet.

Listen to the clip of "Simmi", he describes how it was for him.