Local officials study German prison system

LOWELL — Inmates getting job training as they serve prison sentences and mothers living with their infant children behind bars are among features of the German criminal justice system that caught the eye of several local officials who visited the country last month.

      District Attorney Marian Ryan, Rep. Sheila Harrington, D-Groton, and UTEC Executive Director Gregg Croteau were among over a dozen officials who visited as part of tour provided by the Columbia University Justice Lab.

      The chief justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court, officials from the state public defender’s office, the Chelsea police chief, and the Suffolk County sheriff were also on the trip, which gave participants a first-hand look at how Germany does things.

      Harrington said not everything she saw impressed her, as she noted that immigrants and native Germans seemed to be treated differently by the system there. But she, as well as Ryan and Croteau, were impressed by the degree to which the German system is focused on preparing inmates to live better lives and avoid commit-ting additional crimes after release.