Why are criminals not afraid of jail

What crime does to criminals : "I wanted to be a man everyone was afraid of"

Maximilian Pollux says on the phone that prison escapes are one of those things. In principle, they are not punishable in Germany. If you try, you don't have to expect any additional prison term. In reality things are different, says Pollux, because it can hardly be avoided to be guilty of so-called accompanying acts during the outbreak: damage to property, threats, bribery - and these would then be punished all the more consistently: “Committing an outbreak with no punishment is like that almost impossible. ”Of the more than 50,000 prisoners in Germany, a handful try it every year.

He himself has made numerous plans over the years. And actually tried it once. He stole six sets of bedclothes from the closet and tied them into a rope. Using two bent metal bars and a weight plate, he built a grappling hook that he would throw over the seven-meter-high outer wall. He wanted to put several layers of T-shirts and sweaters on top of each other because of the nato wire that he would have to overcome.

He had organized an escape helper who was waiting for him outside and who would help him go into hiding. Pollux had promised the man 20,000 euros, “but of course I would never have paid it, instead I would have robbed the guy. That's how I was then ”.

It should happen during the morning walk in the yard. The evening before, Maximilian Pollux was lying in his loft bed and watching "The Godfather" on television, to reassure him, he knew the film practically by heart.

The grappling hook broke and Pollux fell

The next morning Pollux made it over two fences and two strips of grass, then halfway up the wall until the grappling hook broke. Pollux fell, officials sprayed pepper spray on his face. He was then placed in solitary confinement.

Hundreds of thousands now know that Maximilian Pollux, 37, spent a long time in prison, a total of nine years and eight months. Since May he has been running a channel on YouTube that bears his name and in which he reports on his daily prison life in a detailed and matter-of-fact way. About worries and lows, longings and disappointments. He grants his growing audience impressions of a cosmos that most of them will be spared for a lifetime.

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Pollux's stories are about violence and power games among prisoners, the importance of flip-flops and the omnipresence of snoring noises. On the phone he says that he doesn't want to romanticize the gangster life or put on a raised index finger, but rather describe as truthfully as possible what life feels like in prison - to protect others from it.

He records most of the videos in a corner of his living room in Mainz, behind him a bookshelf and landscapes on the wall. He reveals, for example, that you always have to fold down the toilet lid in the Nuremberg correctional facility, otherwise the rats will climb out of the bowl and steal leftover bread. Pollux says that the inmates spurned the red and green tea on offer because there was a persistent rumor that the prison administration mixed a substance into the drink to lower the prisoners' libido.

After reporting about it on his YouTube channel, he received a lot of emails from viewers: The exact same fairy tale was told by inmates in other countries, even in the USA and Australia.

Pollux had to go to court for drug and arms trafficking, robbery and extortion, dangerous bodily harm, theft, violation of the War Weapons Control Act, inciting the acquisition of firearms. He thinks the point of inciting firearms to be bought is exaggerated, says Pollux, but the rest of the work gets done: "Yes, unfortunately I did everything."

He says he made a conscious decision to live as a criminal as a teenager. He wanted to be free and dangerous, not to have to follow any rules. And in the end he found himself in a place where he had to keep to the rules all the time, where he lived in eight square meters and was prescribed which underpants he had to wear: worn fine rib that countless others had worn before him and after him others would carry him. He was given five copies a week.

It is precisely this gap between the desire and reality of gangster life that Pollux repeatedly addresses in his videos. Then there is the question at which point one finally admits that he has taken a wrong turn somewhere.

A drug lab for crystal meth

Outside, Pollux was part of a gang that made crystal meth. She had set up her own laboratory in an attic for 15,000 euros. They smuggled weapons from the former Yugoslavia. They also committed robberies, especially in Bavaria. Their victims were other dealers who had money and drugs and rarely went to the police.

At that time, says Pollux, there were only three kinds of people for him: gangsters, cops, and civilians. Anyone who did not carry a weapon was for him a civilian, "cowardly, weak and stupid". Anyone who obeyed the law was a sheep to him.

“I wanted to be a man everyone was afraid of,” says Pollux today. Instead, he became one who constantly worried and feared. Who was afraid of being attacked by the police. Or that accomplices betray him. In front of passers-by on the street who might be plainclothes policemen. In front of cars with unusual license plates or the apartment opposite if the blinds were down there.

A criminal's life consists of 95 percent stress. It is a permanent alarm condition. Even today, Pollux cannot sit with his back to the door in a room, not even at dinner with his in-laws.

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Pollux has now put 51 videos online. Last month it occurred to him whether to cancel the project. He was annoyed by messages from viewers accusing him of indulging in the role of the gangster. “It's exactly the opposite of what actually drives me,” says Pollux on the phone.

The idea came in lockdown

For almost five years he has been doing prevention work, giving workshops in schools, youth centers and prisons. For this he founded an association called Sight Orphans. When the workshops were canceled in the first lockdown, he got the idea to spread his message digitally. A friend who has a fitness channel on YouTube told him, "If I can persuade people to do more sit-ups and eat healthier meals, you can also deter people from crimes."

Most of the feedback he receives is positive. He spends four hours every day just processing the viewer post on Instagram.

Pollux made one of his most important decisions in prison on the second evening in the Nuremberg penal institution. Then his cellmate Ulli took the beige powder from the letter that he had organized when he went out to the courtyard that morning. Ulli was in his late 50s, a well-known thug and junkie, muscular and greasy at the same time. Half-faded tattoos covered his body.

Ulli was sleeping downstairs in the bunk bed, and he probably meant it well when he said: If you want, we can share the heroin. He boiled it up with citric acid and a tablespoon. The needle that Ulli had gotten looked like it had been used many times.

The appeal was clearly there, says Pollux today, and that in retrospect he does not know exactly why he ultimately turned down the offer. Maybe he just found the dirty needle too gross. He retired to the upper bed and read the kitsch novel he had borrowed that day: "Southern Cross", about a young woman who married a wealthy cattle farmer in Australia in the early 19th century, but secretly a completely different one Husband loved - while Ulli injected the heroin downstairs into her vein. If I had given in at that moment, says Pollux, everything would probably have turned out differently.

During his first few years in prison, he continued to commit crimes, mainly blackmailing and robbery. He also fought, for example with the man who wanted to use the same phone in the hallway.

Pollux also shares his experience with law enforcement officers. Some enjoyed exposing inmates. One of them read Pollux's post and then spoke to him loudly while walking in the courtyard: "Well, you miss your mother really badly, right?" Quite a few other officials, says Pollux, treated him with respect. “They just tried to do a good job.” And as far as he had noticed, German law enforcement officers were extremely difficult to bribe.

He comes from a good family, says Pollux, and his family didn't do anything wrong. Except for the uncle who made him commit his first crime. He asked if Pollux, then 13, wouldn't go to Holland and pick up a suitcase full of marijuana there. Pollux felt honored, found it exciting, began to deal. “I didn't slip,” he says, “I wanted that.” Shortly after his 14th birthday, the police carried out the first house search. At half past six in the morning, his mother stood there shocked in her nightgown, stammered: "Today it doesn't suit me, I didn't vacuum."

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At the age of 15 he was in youth detention for four weeks, he had stolen spray caps for graffiti cans in the department store and had a loaded nine-millimeter gas pistol with him, which was interpreted as armed theft. The youth arrest lasted four weeks, after which Pollux thought: It wasn't really that bad, I got along well there. He also liked the fact that after his release he could pose in front of his girlfriend as a quiet, mysterious guy with a prison experience. He says, "It was the beginning of a bad, long career."

An expert report on him states that he had shown “vagabond, parasitic behavior” for years, and Pollux says that is an apt description.

When he was 19, his first arrest warrant was issued and he had to go into hiding. At the age of 21 he was arrested in Amsterdam, early in the morning on the street. The officers disguised themselves as garbage collectors, overpowered him and put on cable ties. He was so caught up in his gangster world that he thought they weren't police officers, but other criminals who were now trying to kidnap him and extort a ransom. “I was already wondering whether they would cut off my finger as leverage.” From the fast-paced driving style of the officer at the wheel, he realized that it had to be the police.

A day later, he revealed the address of his secret apartment, where he had stored weapons and drugs. Because he didn't want his only remaining friend, his dog, to starve to death.

"I think you misjudge the seriousness of the situation"

Some of his episodes sound amusing. For example, when Pollux had to go to the forensic clinic in Erlangen for an expert opinion during his time in custody. He appeared in his undershirt, acted extra stupid and replied as if he was hardly sane.

He thought it was about assessing whether he should be prosecuted under juvenile or adult criminal law. "I think you misjudge the seriousness of the situation," warned the psychologist after hours. And Pollux explained that he was here because of Section 66 of the Criminal Code, i.e. the question of whether the accused posed a danger to the general public and that preventive detention would be necessary after the end of the prison sentence. Then they started the conversation all over again, and Pollux pulled himself together.

Other episodes are brutal. He reports that a friend of his was stabbed to death in prison for nothing, he bled to death in the shower. Pollux says that razor blades are not feared weapons in jail, but that rough weapons are.

He says sentences like: "Razor blades are only used in prison for one type of murder, namely suicides."
At such moments he struggles for composure in front of the camera. Sometimes he stops the recording and continues when he has calmed down again.

In films and hip-hop songs, prison stays are usually portrayed much shorter than the period of crime that led to them. It remains invisible that, as happened to him, all grandparents could die away during a ten-year prison sentence without ever being allowed to attend a funeral. Or that it was years before he was first allowed to hug one of his visits.

The change in my own head, the change in values, took time. He still remembers how satisfied he was with himself after two years of pre-trial detention, that he did not betray anyone after his arrest and that he waived the promised reduction in sentence. On the day of his sentencing, he saw his mother in the courtroom and thought, "I'm sure I'll make her proud now because I'm such a damned man of honor."

Today he says: It was a mistake to assume that I would not have betrayed anyone. "Because of course when I turned down the deal I betrayed my loved ones." His mother, his stepfather, his two younger siblings. The little sister was 21 when he got out of prison. "To this day, she doesn't want anything to do with me," says Pollux. And that he understands this very well.

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