Neustrelitz Prison is a juvenile facility, but whereas in the United States the word “juvenile” usually refers to those under 18, the 150 men and women at this German institution are almost all between 19 and 25. They’re housed in a collection of small white buildings with pitched, shingled roofs that sit behind a wall in the countryside of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a large but sparsely populated state along Germany’s northern coast about the size of New Hampshire. (It’s even got the same tall trees and crisp air.)
There are horses for the prisoners to ride, and dozens of rabbits, including one that — according to a prisoner who cares for him — has done well in some sort of national rabbit competition.
Wednesday’s tour of Neustrelitz represented another moment in which US corrections officials, prosecutors, activists, and researchers — in the country for a week — could witness the extent to which Germany’s prison system differs from their own. Here, administrators emphasize therapy (the rabbits are part of “animal therapy”) and eschew the retributive impulse that has defined American justice for decades.