The sound of keys and metal
The sound of rattling keys, striking metal hinges, locking locks and doors accompanied by the first moment of waking at 6.45 a.m., until late into the night when the locksmiths* turn their rounds in the stadium-bright courtyard. It’s such a ubiquitous noise here that you quickly get the feeling that an industrial soundtrack is running on a continuous loop in the background and is being turned quieter or louder from time to time. When prisoners work here, they „even“ get the key for the cell at some point. A cynical move for pacification that can hardly be surpassed. Like many other of these moves in the cycle of carrot and stick, it unfortunately works very well. It already starts with the small things. If, for example, the cell is no longer called a cell but a „prison space“ or, as on some forms to be filled out, a „workplace“. This logic is consistently applied here. So the usual sanctions besides the detention cell and hostile treatment are mainly the cancellation of e.g. „work may“, „shopping may“ or for a high price a „television with channel subscription to be allowed to rent“. I understand that many prisoners want to work because it is a possibility to get out of the cell or to finance the shopping necessary to survive. But I think it is important not to blur the boundaries between prisoners and human guards. I think it’s wrong for a closer to actively participate in so-called „leisure activities“. In the same way, I will not have any personal conversations with them just because I am permanently forced to share rooms with them. I am not here voluntarily and am locked up by them every day anew. Far too often I hear here: „They just do their job“. There can be no eye level here and I don’t have to work out a non-hostile treatment here. Of course it is too exhausting and sometimes dangerous to permanently seek open conflict with the civil servants*. But it is possible to limit communication to the technical necessities necessary for survival. As everywhere, responsibility is delegated away here, but in a place like the prison the permanent exercise of dominion over other people is very clearly visible. When once again a*e prisoner*r is yelled at by*a*m guard*in because he*she*has to ask a very common question to deny*her*his (over-)life here. If once again a person has to ask because he*she*does not have the linguistic ability to understand the commands, which are basically only given in German, rarely in a kind of fantasy English. When the human caretakers then become aggressive and racist in order to deceive beyond their own ignorance. If the prisoners are escorted once a day to a yard to walk in circles for an hour and then locked back in their cell for 23 hours. All the perfectly normal and vital things such as mental stimulation, seeing pictures, being able to read something, having a conversation with another person or even just receiving information and news from the world outside the walls, for those without a clock, receiving the current time, is presented and handled as a privilege for which the*prisoner should be grateful.
There is no justification for jail, for even those who sit here for deeds incompatible with a free life do not change here. Every person who works on this machine, be it as a technician, doctor or social worker, contributes his part to the functioning of the whole, closes the lock behind him with his own hand.
A prisoner, Hamburg, July 2019