Monday, 21 May 2012

Britain and Germany are no countries for old men who break the law

An article in the Daily Mail in 2010 was entitled :
The old-age 'offenders': Generation of elderly turned into criminals
An article in a German media mag, DW, earlier this year was entitled : 
Germany's Graying Gangsters
So what does a comparison between old criminals in Britain and here, where I'm staying, Germany, reveal ?
First, some exaples of old criminals in Britain :

71 year old Geoff Dornan who was arrested and fined £ 300, after being caught roller blading in Southport and said he did it "to keep fit", was deemed to be a 'danger to pedestrians'.
And Germany :
In November, police busted a fairly successful gang of bank robbers who had taken in €400,000 ($541,000) in the last five years. The three old men, who demonstrated their seriousness to bank employees with pistols, sledge hammers and hand grenades, were aged 63, 72 and 74.
In Britain :
record numbers of old men  are being criminalised for trivial offences by target-driven police, with 40 arrested every day for crimes and 44,321 arrested over the past three years, many  being punished for the first time after decades of abiding by the law for offences ranging from :

- failing to pay a fine for overfilling a wheelie bin
- not wearing a seatbelt
- chopping a neighbour's hedge without permission.
In Germany :
criminality among old people has risen some 28% since the mid 1990s and the number   doing time behind bars is also on the increase and while gray crime includes everything from fraud and extortion to sexual abuse and murder, most are petty offenses with shoplifting making up 80% of cases.
Nevertheless, Jutta Rosendahl of the Justice Ministry in the state of Lower Saxony has said : "There is an increase in the number of elderly people committing crimes and we have to face this problem.” 
* instead of body building or basketball, they would have physical therapy and the prison  outfitted with ramps to make life easier for wrongdoers in wheelchairs.
Here officials there are planning the country’s first prison designed exclusively for the over 60 set by turning a jail in need of renovation near the town of B├╝ckeburg into a low-security prison exclusively for old criminals, whose needs and interests are different than those of younger offenders, meaning that : 
Jutta said that : “It won’t be a wellness farm for elderly people, but it will address their special problems and give them a better chance at having a normal life after being released from prison.”
* out would go the physically demanding jobs in the prison laundry or metal shop and in would come assembly work felons can perform sitting down.
* out would go education for high school diplomas or traineeships and in would come  resocialization programs based on  practical needs, like basic living and cooking skills.
Criminologists and justice officials insist the jump in numbers of old criminals does not mean German is experiencing a 'gray crime wave', but they do say that there are several developments in Germany leading more grandmas and grandpas outside the law which are :
*  German society in general is getting older, meaning the pool of possible criminals among old men and women is getting larger every year.
* poverty rates among older people have been inching up as prices rise and pension rates remain stagnant or the incremental increases fail to keep up with inflation.
“Older people have to get by with less and less money and some are almost forced to resort to shoplifting just to maintain a reasonable standard of living during their retirement,” said Frank Geppert, a social worker at Freie Hilfe Berlin, an organization that helps prisoners reintegrate into society after they’ve been released.
as state-supported programs for old people fall victim to budget cuts, they are becoming increasingly isolated and some resort to petty crimes like shoplifting just for the thrill of it, seeing it almost as an adventure to spice up an otherwise colorless existence.
* some  hope to get caught, happy that someone, security personnel in these cases, is paying attention to them since generally, no one else does.
Not everyone thinks the old-age prisons are a good idea, fearing they could lead to even more isolation. According to Frank, one of the goals of German prisons is to have a mix of people and ages that represents, as closely as possible,  society on the outside and a prison for old men and women would take prisoners one more step away from the normal world.
“It would be like an old folks home and the ones who were still mentally alert would feel shut away with a lot who might already be senile. They’d have no communication with young people, and that’s not good for them.”
Peter Rausch, 72, is of two minds on the prison matter, a topic he knows all too well. He went to jail for the first time at the age of 17 and has been in and out of incarceration all his life. He was over 60 when he finished his last sentence and still has occasional brushes with the law.
He’s still active and in good health and worries that if he were put in an institution with elderly people, some of whom were infirm, he’d end up looking after them or, worse, acting like them. On the other hand, if he had to do time again, a place with an older clientele might not be all that bad.
“Not that I’m ready to check in or anything,” he said. “But I wouldn’t mind having it a little quieter in the klink next time, getting to shuffle around in my slippers.”
old age offenders.jpg

P.S. a posting from 2009 :

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Germany-no country to cross the 'Geritol Gang'.

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