One of the basic challenges for foreign prisoners is the language barrier. Conflicts arising from religious and cultural differences, as well as dysfunctional social relationships are exacerbated by poor communication. A lack of language skills increases the feeling of isolation and frustration, inflames conflicts with others including prison staff, and prevents effective legal protection for people in prison. Furthermore, participation in prison rehabilitation programmes is hardly possible without mastering the language. The proportion of foreigners in the German prison population, which has been rising for years (36% on average in Germany and up to 50-60% in city states such as Berlin and Hamburg) is increasingly exacerbating the problem. The scope of the problem is unknown, as comprehensive scientific surveys of language skills and language courses in German prisons are not yet available, however, is presumably significant.
We are planning to offer language courses in cooperation with Berlin universities through the integration of student teachers. All prospective teachers must lead “German as a second language” seminars as part of their training. In line with the concept of “Learning Together” we aim to improve both the lack of language courses available in prison and the insufficient practical opportunities for prospective teachers. Launch of the project is planned for winter 2020.
We are in contact with Prof. Dr. Daniela Caspari from the Free University of Berlin, who heads the German as a Second Language/Language Education Department.