Statement of Being is a project by photographer Julia Schönstädt. Julia has photographed and interviewed several prisoners in institutions across Germany, her aim being “to dispel the stigma of the ‘criminal’ and simply make the subject human.” We will feature one pair of portrait+interview [the interview is actually an excerpt of a longer conversation] every day for six days.

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Claudia – 4 years
After my second therapy I was supposed to formulate goals (…) and after thinking long and hard, the only thing I could think of was – I wanted to stay alive!

I was imprisoned 6 years ago. I was in supervised custody for half a year and after that I was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. But then I didn’t have to serve the whole sentence, instead I got into a psychiatric facility. (…) It has been 2 years now since I’ve been on parole and I have another 3 years of probationary supervision ahead of me. So everything included, from the beginning until today, it has been 6 years. I am now 50 years old and I think that the second half of my life will work out a bit better, or at least it feels that way so far.

In hindsight, for you, your prison experience isn’t impacted by any negative experiences?

That’s ambiguous. I know that I was in a personal situation where prison gave me space to breathe at first. If I would be torn out of my normal life now, and that can happen to anyone, that they get falsely accused, I would probably find that very traumatic. You are very helpless. You have very few possibilities to influence or shape things. You are completely dependent on the good will and concession of the officers. And part of it is also always luck, depending on what kind of people you will be put together with, and the groups that form. I think for a person who isn’t in an emergency situation as I was in, this is very dark.

What gave you strength and hope during that time? 

That is hard to say. After my second therapy I was supposed to formulate goals, because in a way it is also important to know what you are resisting drugs for. I had major difficulties with that and after thinking long and hard, the only thing I could think of was – I wanted to stay alive! And that has somehow always stayed present afterwards as well. My arrest was about two years after that and I clearly hadn’t made any real progress, but staying alive – I still wanted that!

Do you think you would have gone down the same road without being addicted to drugs?

I have my doubts there. I have the same doubts that the consultants had as well. I mean, I am not only addicted to drugs, I also have depression, I have several stress disorders and a partial personality disorder. And I didn’t only commit drug related crimes, I do have a tendency towards delinquency generally. I don’t think I would have crashed my life in exactly the same way as I did without drugs and alcohol but I do believe that I would have gone down a criminal path anyway. Because I get a kick out of crime and the related tension when something works out. There is something opportunistic inside of me that enjoys taking chances in moments when I see a possibility. Back then I didn’t see any other option for receiving recognition and self-affirmation and that was an easy way for me. But I only saw all of this later, through therapy.

See all the other episodes in the Statement of Being series – Ep. #1: Oliver / Ep. #2: Volkert / Ep. #4: Harry / Ep. #5: Pete / Ep. #6: Martina.

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