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No News Is Good News: Criminal Sentencing in Germany since 2000
Crime and Justice  (IF4.474),  Pub Date : 2016-08-01, DOI: 10.1086/686041
Thomas Weigend

Sentencing practice in Germany has long been stable, reflecting slightly falling crime rates. Public prosecutors dismiss the majority of cases that the police file with them as “cleared.” In a significant percentage of provable cases, prosecutors demand a penance payment of suspects in exchange for dismissal; many others are dismissed without any consequence for the suspect. Criminal courts dispose of more than half of cases in a written procedure, routinely accepting the sentence proposals of prosecutors. A growing number of trials result in “bargained” sentences, that is, sentences agreed on among the judge and the parties. Sentence severity in Germany is generally low. Life sentences are exceptional, and release on parole is available. Overall, only 5 percent of convicted offenders must serve a prison sentence. Another 12 percent receive a suspended prison sentence, and the rest are fined. German society at present does not appear to regard crime and criminal justice as pressing problems. Operating in the shadow of the public interest, agents of criminal justice can pursue a fairly liberal and rational course.