The Josefstadt Prison houses 1,200 prisoners and a gym. Exercise has positive effects on the prison system, especially in foreseeing the prisoners’ health and fitness. But there are many obstacles in the way of exercise.
When thinking of a prison, images of heavy lattice doors, gray walls, and people in convict clothing come to mind. The reality is different. If you step through the green steel door at Wickenburggasse 18, you enter another city. A city surrounded by walls, where 1200 people from 70 nations live together. Josefstadt Prison is a city within a city. Different from what you know from the American television series. Behind a large number of locked doors, in the so-called locking mechanism, there are various businesses, such as a bakery, a laundry, a hospital, and of course two kitchens.
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There are over 40 young people among the inmates. People aged 14 to 18 years. They are housed in their own department, separate from the adults. Guys outwardly no different from their peers outside the prison. The difference, however, lies in their current life situation. They are locked up and have only limited freedom of choice about their lives.
An important task of the prison system is the reintegration of offenders into our society. This should be achieved with a “structured daily routine, with as much time as possible outside the prison premises”. To integrate into society outside the prison walls, you need healthy people. That life in prison cannot be healthy is proven by the cost of medical care for the prisoners.
A good 90 million euros are spent on this every year. That is almost 10,000 euros per prisoner. Sport helps to reduce monotony and boredom through active participation. Sport gives, even in an area of absolute external control, at least temporarily the feeling of being self-determined.
However, especially for the young inmates, detention should not only be custody. It’s not just about locking them away from other people. In the end, everyone will be released from prison and should then function as part of our society.
That is why the daily routine is precisely structured. In the mornings the school is visited or various training courses are taken. In this case, the school is a converted cell. As in any other school, there are tables in several rows in the room, and there are shelves on the walls filled with teaching materials. In front of it is a blackboard on which the teacher is currently writing down the task for the next day.
Free time in the afternoon. Most of them spend in their cells, in front of the television.
“Well-structured leisure activities make a significant contribution to peace and security in prisons,” writes the Ministry of Justice. “Sport has positive effects on the inmates because they can work off”, says Franz Tinhof. The slim man in his late forties is responsible for the athletic care of the young prisoners. Josefstadt Prison has a total of 1200 inmates and a gym.