In Germany, Therapy For Sex Offenders In A Hard Metal Setting

A new German law requires therapy for criminals who served their full sentences but are still deemed too dangerous for release. In the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, therapy sessions are set to begin in a refurbished facility that looks a lot like a prison

In Germany, Therapy For Sex Offenders In A Hard Metal Setting
Kristian Frigelj

OBERHAUSEN -- The sound of the alarm goes right through you – and through the prison walls. In the former penitentiary in Oberhausen, somebody has set it off. Markus Brehmer rushes out of cell 220 and calls down the hall: "Who did that? Mr. Reimann, please turn that off!" Somebody in a nearby cell had meant to turn on the light and pushed the wrong button by mistake.

A few moments later, silence returns, and Brehmer continues to show a group of reporters around the different floors of the facility with its steel doors and barred partitions. There aren't any more prisoners here. This old penitentiary opposite Oberhausen's train station is empty, though not for long.

A first group of sex offenders and violent criminals are due to move in soon. These are men who are still considered dangerous, but who – thanks to a Supreme Court decision – are being released from preventive detention in the penal system.

The former prison, which still looks exactly like a prison, has now been baptized the Oberhausen Therapy Center. The facility is being run by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR), a service association charged with the task by the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Brehmer, who is employed by the LVR, is the section head in charge of the new "therapy center."

On the tour, Brehmer highlights the additional bars on the windows, made of Mangan hard metal, the additional surveillance cameras, the service rooms with the control monitors on each floor. He also points out an unobtrusive grey box mounted on a hall wall: "That's the personal emergency call system – one of our biggest investments," he says.

As soon as a guard presses a red button on his mobile phone or pulls a pin out (much in the same way one would remove the pin from a grenade) an emergency call gets sent from this box to a group of guards known as the "alarm group." They can see what floor the call is coming from, and rush to help.

A million-euro makeover

Nordrhein-Westfalen's red/green (socialist and green party) government spent some 1.2 million euros on converting the old jail, which used to house 80 prisoners, but is now limited to 18 people for whom 40 guards, doctors, psychologists and social workers will be responsible.

Many walls that previously divided the space into small cells were broken through to create larger spaces – each equipped with a TV, tables and a kitchen. Patients will be living in groups.

Nordrhein-Westfalen is the first German state to come up with a solution for dealing with dangerous criminals who cannot be let back out into society after they have served their prison sentences but who, according to a 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights, cannot continue to be detained in a penal institution.

An amendment to the law in 1998 made it possible to continue preventive detention for an undetermined length of time. But the decision of the European Court is relevant to all the so called "old cases' – i.e. cases involving people convicted prior to the change and who, after serving their sentence and a maximum of 10 years preventive detention, were kept behind bars because of the level of danger they represented for society.

German courts reacted differently to the Strasbourg judge's decision, but a law that went into effect at the beginning of the year stated that prisoners who are considered extremely dangerous or are mentally disturbed must be transferred from preventive detention in a prison to a closed therapeutic facility.

But it's taking a while to find locations for such facilities and to install them. Meanwhile some detainees, released into society for lack of therapy centers, committed new crimes even though they were under around-the-clock police surveillance. Two weeks ago, a 49-year-old pedophile managed to evade police and shortly afterwards abused a small girl.

The Oberhausen Therapy Center is meant to prevent perpetrators who are potential recidivists from getting back into society too quickly after they are released from preventive detention. But, says head psychologist Verena Peykan, the therapy they are getting is being done with an eye to their eventual return to society.

According to experts, fast results should not be anticipated. These are mostly men, 60 or older who have been behind bars for decades and – with the expectation that they would spend the rest of their lives in jail – were not given therapy.

The first inmate, a 63-year-old man, is due to arrive within a couple of weeks.

The converted Oberhausen jail is seen as a temporary solution until the end of 2012. The state health ministry is looking around for a permanent location – discreetly, so as to keep public opposition to a minimum.

Read the original article in German

Photo - astuecker

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The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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