Bonifatiuswerk opens "Santa Claus Free Zone" in Cologne Prison

Deed.Place.Nicholas in Cologne prison: (from left to right) Detainees Alexa and Daniel, Mayoress Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, Michael Herberger, Deed.Place.Nicholas supporters, detainee Domik, Ulrich Merz as Nicholas, Monsignore Georg Austen, jail pastor Dekan Stefan Ehrlich, prison manager Angela Wotzlaw, Sarah Rummel from parish Roncalli "Am Heumarer Dreieck" and Isabel Lubojanski (Segensorte Duderstadt) (Photo: Theresa Meier)


During a press conference at Cologne prison (JVA Köln), the Bonifatiuswerk showed that prisons can also be places where good deeds are done. At the opening of the "Santa Claus Free Zone", the aid organisation presented its new "Deed.Place.Nicholas: Anyone can do good deeds" campaign.With this campaign, the Bonifatiuswerk wants to implement the concerns of Saint Nicholas very consciously in today’s world and seek out places where good things are happening. The aim of the "Santa Claus Free Zone", founded in 2002, is to bring Saint Nicholas back into the consciousness of society as a friend of children and helper of people in need.

Without big words

"Doing good deeds doesn’t require big words. If we look beyond our own nose with an attentive eye and become active wherever we can help other people selflessly and supportively, places of good deeds are created. But standing up for others can sometimes be uncomfortable and requires courage, because it means facing adversity and resistance," says Secretary General Monsignore Georg Austen.

Good things can happen

The prison was deliberately chosen to follow the example of Saint Nicholas, who treated all people respectfully and without prejudice. He had gone to the fringes of society and sided with those who were marginalised, Austen explains. Approximately 300 women and 700 men are currently detained in Cologne prison, which is divided into remand and criminal custody. Some of the prisoners made it clear that in a place where people live for some time as a result of bad deeds, good things can happen. For example, Alexa, who is part of the culture and leisure team in the prison, looks after other inmates who are not so proficient in the German language and helps them when it comes to filling out applications. Her involvement in the culture and leisure team, which organises concerts and comedy evenings, is a welcome change. "It’s good to see that during these times you can forget the bars, forget where you are here and just be human," Alexa says.