Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann has promised a downgrading of fare evasion from a criminal offense to an administrative offence. “As the Ministry of Justice, we want to critically review the penal code in the coming year to see which facts are still up to date,” said the FDP politician to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “This includes, for example, the paragraph that deals with the so-called fraudulent acquisition of benefits. This also includes fare evasion.”

Buschmann also wants to reduce the so-called substitute imprisonment by half. It affects people who do not pay their fines, in many cases fare dodgers. “In Germany, far too many people are in prison for offenses where the legislator actually wants people to pay a fine – and not end up in jail,” said the minister. “We don’t want people to be imprisoned just because of their poverty.”

With the halving of the rates for the replacement prison sentence, the time for community work, with which the fines can also be paid, is also halved. “We hope that more people will choose this path. We need the limited prison capacity for inmates who have committed significantly worse crimes.”

However, Buschmann rejected a complete abolition of the replacement prison sentence. “Studies show that those affected often only pay when they realize that they are actually threatened with imprisonment,” he said – and referred to an example in Europe: Sweden had almost abolished the alternative prison sentence and then realized that the payment of fines had stalled violently. “The country reversed the experiment.”