Prison chaplaincy

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Prison chaplaincy refers to visiting prisoners for religious reasons.

Prison chaplaincy has been practiced since ancient times; biblically it is considered a work of mercy (cf. Mt 25 : 31-46  EU ). The systematic expansion of prison chaplaincy took place at the end of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the modern custodial sentence emerged as a means of administering justice . In the meantime, it has long been expanded to include various religious offers in most countries, so it has exceeded the narrow Christian horizon.

Content according to Christian understanding

Today the prison chaplaincy includes the celebration of church services and the administration of the sacraments as well as the offer of talks and cell visits, assistance with further training measures , maintenance of contacts with relatives and the mediation of other offers of assistance.

The biblical quote I was in prison and you came to me ( Mt 25.36  EU ) is the model for prison chaplaincy . According to the Christian image of man, no one loses the dignity given by God.

Legal situation

In the states of western democracies, especially in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, there are legal bases for the subjective public rights of prisoners to religious (pastoral) accompaniment.


In Germany, the current legal basis is Art. 140 GG in conjunction with Art. 141 WRV . It is a joint task of the state and religious communities , a so-called res mixta .

Prison chaplains are appointed or contractually obliged in the main office in accordance with Section 157 of the Prison Act. For this purpose, after a probationary period, they are accepted into the civil service as civil servants for life or as employees. A termination of the employment contract on one's own initiative or at the request of the responsible bishop (transfer) is possible. Clergy and laypeople work in this form of pastoral care .

You go to the prison as representatives of the churches. The pastors enjoy a high level of trust due to their duty of confidentiality and the right to refuse to testify. Due to their independence, they are, in addition to the advisory boards at the JVA , part of the institutionalized public in the penal system.


In Switzerland, according to BV Art. 15, freedom of belief and conscience and, in particular, a cantonal prison ordinance, z. B. those of the Canton of Zurich (JVV) in § 113 on the area of ​​"care and pastoral care".


In Austria, pastoral care in prisons is regulated by §85 StVG.

Islamic prison chaplaincy


In most of the federal states there are only Christian prison chaplains who work full-time and with pastoral care; Muslim pastoral care is then limited to visits and leisure groups by volunteers.

  • Lower Saxony : Since December 2012, Muslim prisoners in Lower Saxony can be looked after by Islamic pastors everywhere in the state .
  • Berlin : After the city of Berlin itself had sent a request to the Muslim associations in 2011, a special working group was formed for this purpose, which later became the association Arbeitsgemeinschaft Muslimische Gefäßnisseelsorge eV . On August 23, 2013, the Berlin Senator for Justice informed the representatives of the working group that the “good cooperation” had ended. The reason given was that “central people” of the association were assessed as problematic from a security point of view by the Senate Department for Internal Affairs and Sport. Names were not mentioned.


  • Canton of Bern : An imam has been looking after Muslim prisoners in Bern's Thorberg prison since the summer of 2012, after a 2011 National Fund study called for an upgrading of prison chaplaincy. The investigation concluded that the prisoners' religious needs needed better consideration.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Announcement by Vatican Radio on December 19, 2012 (accessed on July 11, 2014)
  2. German-Turkish Journal: Bullying of the Constitutional Protection: Muslims cancel Islamforum (accessed on July 11, 2014)
  3. KIPA: Bern imam looks after Muslim prisoners in the Thorberg prison (accessed on July 11, 2014)