Immigration Restrictionism, Minority Visibility and Incarceration: Germany 1970-1997

Pamela Irving Jackson, Rhode Island College
Jianhong Liu, Rhode Island College
Bruno Salzmann, University of Hannover

This paper examines the extent to which minority visibility increased in Germany during the restrictionist immigration period of the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in greater incarceration rates for the foreign population despite the relative stability of their numbers in the population as a whole. Based on data from official government sources, the findings indicate that between 1985 the percentage of foreigners among the prisoner population increased by 13 percent, while their percentage in the overall population grew by less than two percent. After the ban on recruitment of foreign guestworkers in 1973, Turks in Germany became an increasingly large proportion of those foreigners incaracerated, while the proportion of the foreign population that was Turkish declined slightly. The vast majority of offenses for which foreigners were incarcerated involved violations of asylum procedures, immigration law and illegal or irregular documents. The other offenses for which foreigners in Germany were most typically convicted were nonviolent, involving gambling, drugs and organized crime. For foreigners, from 1989-1997 there was a dramatic reduction in the proportion of young offenders (18-21) convicted according to the youth law, rather than the more severe general criminal law, while there was no noticeable change in the proportion of German young offenders convicted according to the youth law. The results are interpreted in the context of the economic, social and political changes in Germany during this time period, and compared to similar outcomes of restrictionism found in France and the United States.

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Updated 05/20/2006