What is the nicest prison one can live in?

R. Wiegand

The bed was over there by the window. Sometimes, Sven Tiemann remembers, the inmates would have rattled along the bars outside to wake him up, "especially on weekends, because they made fun of it".

The free period was early in the morning at eight, and then the night was over for little Sven. Because it was his cot that was there in front of the barred window, and his gaze fell on the prison yard, over which a wire netting was stretched. Sven Tiemann spent his childhood in prison, in rooms without a view. He says, "it was a lovely childhood."

Only a lock separated the private rooms

Today Sven Tiemann is 37 and himself a correctional officer like his father, who once put his family behind bars in the first place. Dieter Tiemann was the last service manager of the court prison in Cuxhaven, who also lived behind the prison walls - in an official apartment with four rooms and a kitchen.

Only one lock separated the family's private rooms from the prison wing; in the case of nightly incidents, interventions were made in pajamas. "We lived among the prisoners for ten years," says Tiemann senior, now 65. "It was our best time."

Today, the prison in Cuxhaven is a relatively modern, small facility that is a branch of the Oldenburg penal institution. Every prisoner has a key to his cell. The rooms behind the historic wooden doors are decorated in a youth hostel style, not a hotel, but by no means a dungeon.

In Cuxhaven, the inmates are housed in an open prison. Most of them know how to behave in order to get through the prison term. Only for the others there is also a cell without a door handle on the ground floor. Although the whole house has been modernized, today's service manager Olaf Schulz cannot imagine living here where he works. "Never," he says.

Inmates took care of themselves

The Tiemanns' apartment used to be here. Where there is now a meeting room, there was once the children's room. When Sven played with his friends in the garden, up to 30 prisoners could watch him.

The predecessors of the Tiemanns even grew their own fruit and vegetables in the prison's own garden; it was a self-catering establishment in the 1960s. With the Tiemanns, the prisoner who could do it best always cooked for his fellow prisoners. "We had a lot of seafarers here," says Dieter Tiemann, "there were good cooks among them."

The days of so-called court prisons are long gone. Until 1975, the Cuxhaven institution was part of the local court. Suspects waited for their trials in the walls, which are more than a hundred years old.

The prisoners on remand were mostly guests of the Tiemanns for up to six months, and murderers were also among them. "That never interested me," says Sven Tiemann, who, as a little boy, was more attracted by the lattice window to the kitchen. There, the inmate who was boiling liked to stick a few sweets through him.