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Germany constitutional court strikes down increased telephone charges for inmates

[JURIST] The Germany Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in german] on Tuesday ruled [order, in German] against increased prices for telephone calls for prisoners.

The complaint was brought by an inmate after a 2015 tariff increase by the sole telephone service provider for the prison. There were other providers available in the market and the inmate argued that the use of the more expensive option was a violation of his constitutional rights.

While acknowledging that telephone services need not be provided free of charge to inmates, the Court stated that it should not be unnecessarily expensive either and must conform to ยง 3(1) of the Act Concerning The Execution of Prison Sentences and Measures of Rehabilitation and Prevention Involving Deprivation of Liberty [text, PDF], which calls for life in prison to be as close as possible to general living conditions.

Essentially, the Court concluded that the decision of the lower courts upholding the increased prices stated that those decisions violate prisoner's "fundamental right under Article 2 (1) in conjunction with Article 1 (1) [of the Germany Constitution]; the decision does not sufficiently take into account the requirements of the re-socialization requirement for the protection of the financial interests of prisoners" and that "the disregard of the economic interests of the prisoners would be incompatible with the constitutional rehabilitation provision."

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