History, Motivation, Activities
Johannes Feest founded the Prison Archive in 1977 after his appointment as professor at the University of Bremen’s Faculty of Law. As its name since 1983 indicates, we are collecting literature and judicial decisions about prisons and prison law. However, the central activity of the prison archive since its beginning cannot be deduced from its name: the answering of letters by prisoners on questions about their legal situation and possibilities of litigation. These letters are answered by our (continuously only small) team with varying voluntary participation of researchers, students, lawyers and others.
In 2012 the Prison Archive has moved from the University of Bremen, Faculty of Law, to the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund, Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, where now Christine Graebsch and. Sven Burkhardt are responsible for its continuance. The Prison Archive is supported by the affiliates association “Verein Strafvollzugsarchiv e.V.” in Bremen with Johannes Feest as its chairperson, and the “Verein zur Rechtshilfe im Justizvollzug des Landes Bremen e.V.” with Christina Lederer as its chairperson.
From the beginning, the Prison Archive has been dedicated to research about prison law in action and about the experience of imprisonment. The communication with prisoners – even though initiated by their questions about law – has never been a one-way communication but a mutual process of learning. The experience of imprisonment as it can be understood by communicating with prisoners continuously influences teaching at several universities (Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts, University of Bremen, University of Hamburg) as well as publications and political debate. One important publication connected with the Prison Archive starting with its first edition is the inter-disciplinary commentary on German Prison Law with its 7th edition published in 2017 (Johannes Feest, Wolfgang Lesting, Michael Lindemann (eds.): Strafvollzugsgesetze. Wolters Kluwer). Recently a publication series of the Prison Archives has been established at Springer International Publishing.