Closed Society. Resocialisation in West German Prisons, 1950–1990
The question of how criminal offenders can be made into socially-conforming members of society while serving their prison sentences took on a completely different meaning in the Federal Republic of Germany after the experiences of the Nazi dictatorship. What was the task of a prison? How should it be set up and how should its inmates be handled in order to conform to the self-understanding of a social order built on liberal principles? A programme for regulating behaviour, i.e. resocialisation, seemed to offer answers to these questions and will therefore be the focus of my project.
The proposed project understands the West German resocialisation programme as an order of knowledge and values in which a new democracy organised its concept of personal freedom under exceptional circumstances, individual freedom in prisons being curtailed by governmental decree. Three topic areas will be explored in more detail with the aim of showing what justifications were used in the Federal Republic to resolve the paradox of ‘education for liberty under deprivation of liberty’ as well as which problems were formulated in the process and by whom.
First, I will enquire into the political and social-science paradigms at the international and national levels that undergirded the concept of resocialisation in West Germany. Second, the project investigates the implementation of specific behaviour-regulating measures and methods deemed relevant by social experts for the desired ‘alternative socialisation’ of inmates in prison. Third, in an effort to gauge and analyse the effects and experiences of resocialisation, I will investigate the criticism levelled against the measures and methods of behavioural regulation, allowing both inmates and representatives of critical criminology to have their say in this matter.
By investigating the development, application and experience of the West German programme of resocialisation, my proposed research project addresses one of the most fundamental issues of liberal-democratic societies in the twentieth century: the opportunities and limits of state regulation of individuals, and this in a paradoxical but not uncommon situation, namely when a person is barred from society in order to teach him how to behave in society.
Dr. Annelie Ramsbrock
01. October, 2019 - 31. July, 2020
Chair representation: Europäische Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Email: ramsbrock [at] zzf-potsdam.de