Last update: 16-Apr-2020
When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power in 2003, there were 59- 60.000 inmates in Turkish prisons.3 years later this was increased to103.000 and the increase just continued. At the end of 2018 it was about. 264,000 prisoners in the Turkish prisons.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2019 United States:
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prisons generally met the UN special rapporteur's standards for physical conditions (i.e., infrastructure and basic equipment), with the notable exception of problems with overcrowding (particularly following the mass detentions after the 2016 coup attempt) that resulted in increased inmate demand for healthcare with fewer resources available to meet inmate needs. This year the government allocated funding for additional prisons.
Prisoner releases begin after Turkish parliament implements COVID-19 bill
Prisoner releases have begun in Turkey after a bill was passed that will see as many as 90,000 inmates set free to reduce the coronavirus pandemic’s threat to the country’s overcrowded prisons. Images published by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency saw the first busloads of inmates leaving prisons after parliament approved the bill early on Tuesday.
Opposition parties had vehemently opposed the bill, which was drafted by the ruling coalition, because it excludes tens of thousands of people convicted of or pending trial for terror charges or other crimes against the state that many view as political prisoners. Instead, some 45,000 people will be released with judicial controls and another 45,000 people will be freed permanently with sentence reductions.
The news of the prisoners’ release arrived shortly after Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül admitted that the virus had spread to prisons, infecting dozens of personnel and inmates, one of whom has died.
In the country as a whole, COVID-19 has continued to spread at a steady pace for the past few days, with 4,062 new cases recorded on Tuesday. Although the death toll rose to its highest so far at 107 that day, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said it was positive that the rate of new infections had remained stable despite the increased number of tests administered this week.
14 April 2020:
Turkish intelligence allowed to ‘question’ prisoners under newly passed bill
A bill passed on Tuesday by the Turkish parliament allows intelligence officers to temporarily take inmates out of prison facilities for “questioning” on terrorism-related crimes, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.
The provision was included in a wider legislative package on criminal execution laws, most notably reducing the execution of prison sentences to relieve overcrowded prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the legislation, intelligence agencies will be able to bring prisoners out for interrogation upon request by “relevant authorities” or prosecutors, with the permission of criminal court judges and with the consent of prisoners.
The period of questioning will not exceed four days at a time, and the overall limit will be 15 days per prisoner, according to the report. The health of the inmates will be documented by doctors during the prisoners’ time away from the prison facilities.
A prison reform bill proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) aims to relax sentencing and see nearly a third of Turkey’s prisoners released on parole or to house arrest, in a bid to counter the coronavirus outbreak
The legal amendments would see the release of significant numbers of inmates, excluding those awaiting trial or found guilty of terrorism, thus keeping in jail journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and dismissed public officials jailed for links to what Turkey calls terrorist organisations.
With the approval of the bill’s clause on Saturday that excludes the violation of Turkey's intelligence law, the release of six journalists incarcerated for exposing the identity of the agent was blocked, Cumhuriyet said.
Editor-in-chief for news outlet OdaTV, Barış Pehlivan, a columnist for Yeniçağ newspaper, Murat Ağırel, the managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, Ferhat Çelik, and its editor-in-chief, Aydın Keser, were arrested on March 8 for reporting on the funeral of a Turkish intelligence agent killed in Libya.
Report reveals inmates in Turkish prisons not protected against coronavirus
A report drafted by the Jurists for Freedom Association (ÖHD) has revealed that inmates in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, as no measures are being taken to protect them.
More than 300,000 inmates in Turkey’s prisons have been a matter of serious concern for human rights organizations and their families since confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Turkey on March 11.
Rights groups have been calling on the Turkish government to release inmates or put them under house arrest as some countries have done in the wake of the global pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 30 people in Turkey.
The ÖHD report, titled “COVID-19,” was drafted following inspections of some prisons in Turkey’s east and southeast regions.
The report shows that inmates in some prisons are not given disinfectants or cologne to protect themselves against the virus. There are accounts from some inmates who say the prison guards don’t care about hygiene when they conduct searches of prison cells, and inmates are taken to meet with visitors without hygienic gloves or masks. The report also showed that despite warnings from officials for social distancing, prison guards and soldiers in prisons tend to congregate in groups.
The report called for the immediate release of ailing inmates and those who are in pre-trial detention.
The Turkish government says it is working on a measure for the release of inmates to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 in the country’s correctional facilities; however, it says those convicted of terrorism will not benefit from the new arrangement.
Thousands of non-loyalist citizens from all walks of life were arrested in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 on terrorism charges under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
29 January 2020:
Human rights group’s prison report notes increase in torture allegations in central Turkey
A growing number of inmates have been reporting torture and ill-treatment in prisons located in Central Anatolia, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Wednesday, citing a report by Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD). The report, which was released on the association’s website on Monday, focused on the situation in prisons located in the region during the last quarter of 2019 and was prepared based on inmates’ accounts to their lawyers and applications filed with the association as well as letters sent from prison.
The prisoners said they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse and that strip searches amounted to harassment.
Nurullah Semo, an inmate in a prison in Bolu province, said he was repeatedly subjected to torture in a strip search room and that the doctors filed no reports despite his requests. The report noted that the complaints failed to lead to effective investigations. Of the 73 applications sent to İHD over the course of three months, many of them concerned deprivation of the right to medical treatment, the report said.
The applications also included complaints about restrictions on books and other publications, the blocking of letters, the denial of radios bought from the prison’s own canteen and the inadequacy of food served to inmates. Another problem highlighted by the report was the fact that some of the inmates were being held in prisons located at a considerable distance from family members.
Halil Dağ, one of the inmates, said that of the last 26 years he has been in prison, he spent 24 years of it hundreds of kilometers from his family. Dağ also said that at the time his father passed away, he had not seen him for nearly five years. The report called on Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission to take action on the allegations.
14 December 2019:
Turkey’s prison population sees 14 pct increase in 2018 – report
Theft led the way in crimes committed in Turkey in 2018, when the prison population in the country rose by 14 percent, political fact-checking website Doğruluk Payı reported citing figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).
Of the 267,000 people behind bars in 2018, 17 percent were found guilty of theft and burglary, 12.4 percent of inflicting bodily injury and 6.7 percent of drug-related crimes, it said. Of the 128,000 people imprisoned in 2011, a total of 27.8 percent were in pre-trial detention, as opposed to being convicted of a crime. This figure dropped to 14 percent in 2014 before soaring to 36.2 percent in 2016, according to TÜİK figures.
The number of inmates in Turkey soared following the July 2016 coup attempt, after which the government detained tens of thousands in a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent. Turkey ranks second in the incarceration rate, the number of people in prison per 100,000 of population, with the United States at the top among OECD countries, according to a report published earlier this year. As of May 2019, the incarceration rate in Turkey was 318 prisoners per 100,000.
The percentage of those awaiting trial under arrest dropped to as low as 21 percent in 2018, the Doğruluk Payı report found. Crimes committed by minors aged 12 to 17 quadrupled during the same year, the report said. The number of children who entered Turkish prisons in 2012 was 3,069, with the number soaring to 14,502 in 2018, it said.
6 December 2019:
Number of prisoners in Turkey increases by 14 percent in 2018
Some 78.9 percent of the prisoners were convicted, while 21.1 percent of them were held in pre-trial detention as of Dec. 31, 2018, Tüik said.
The prison population in Turkey has been increasing steadily since 2013, the institution said. While 188 persons per 100,000 were in prison in Turkey in 2013, that figure reached to 288 in 2017, and 323 in 2018, Tüik said.
The number of inmates between the ages 12 and 17 at the time they entered prison increased by 1.9 percent compared to 2017, reaching 2,095, while the number of juvenile prisoners according to the age at the time of the crime was committed rose by 22.8 percent in a year, Tüik said.
Turkey holds thousands in solitary in Erdoğan’s prisons
Thousands of prisoners are being held in solitary confinement in Turkey under conditions so harsh that some prisoners consider dying by suicide, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported Tuesday.
There are no official figures on the number of prisoners in solitary confinement or how many people die by suicide in prisons in Turkey, but observers told DW that an estimated 3,000 inmates are being held in isolation.
By law, solitary confinement is reserved for inmates imprisoned for life without parole or convicted of heading terrorist organizations. Prisons can also use solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. However, there are repeated indications that solitary confinement is ordered arbitrarily in many prisons without justification.
“My living conditions are getting worse by the day, and I feel increasingly poor,” Muzaffer Özcengiz wrote from his prison cell. “I have a right to live, and so I demand that I be transferred back to a communal cell.”
The 58-year-old teacher took his life on April 27 in solitary confinement at a maximum security prison in the Black Sea province of Çorum. He was kept isolated from his fellow inmates for 14 months “without any justification,” he wrote, adding that solitary confinement had made him ill, leaving him no option but suicide.
Those were his last words — Özcengiz died two days after sending the letter to a judge begging him to end his isolation.
He had been in jail for two years. Özcengiz was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison after he was convicted of membership in the Gülen movement.
The teacher appealed the sentence, but the appellate court has yet to announce a ruling. The farewell letter was made available to DW by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which advocates for Kurds and other excluded minorities in Turkey.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry did not respond to a request for information on the number of prisoners currently in solitary confinement or the number of deaths. Leyla Usta Şahin, the human rights commissioner for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was also unable to provide information about the poor conditions in solitary confinement.
The press frequently reports on deaths similar to that of Muzaffer Özcengiz.
For years, government officials have been forbidden from releasing information on the conditions of prisoners in solitary confinement, the HDP’s Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker who advocates improving prison conditions, told DW. There has been a sharp increase in the number of inmates in solitary confinement since Turkey’s postcoup state of emergency was declared in 2016. “We do not, however, know the exact number,” Gergerlioğlu said.
Prisoners can legally be kept in solitary confinement for a maximum of 20 days — during which time they are also denied fresh air and physical activity — for disciplinary reasons. “But we know that hundreds of prisoners are in solitary confinement for up to 26 months, Gergerlioğlu said. “The state suspends human rights in prison.”
Ezgi Yusufoğlu, a sociologist who researches the lives of prisoners serving life sentences, told DW that conditions in solitary confinement are harsh. “Contact with other prisoners is strictly forbidden, and only first-degree relatives are allowed to visit.”
Yusufoğlu said she had no new data on the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement. Five years ago, the Justice Ministry reported the number as 1,453. In 2018 about 260,000 prisoners were held in 385 prisons, according to Turkey’s Justice Ministry.
Total capacity was reported to be 111,000 inmates — a number that was almost doubled by adding bunk beds and mattresses on the floor. The government has announced that it will build 100 new prisons in the coming years.
9 May 2019:
According to data offered by the Ministry of Justice during the budget deliberations at the GNAT, a total of 260,144 people were incarcerated in 385 penitentiary institutions as of 16 November 2018. 202,434 of these persons are sentenced prisoners, while 57,710 are prisoners with no conviction. No data has been provided for a long time now on the number of prisoners on remand, i.e. those inmates whose sentences have not been upheld yet. These are shown as being included in the number of sentenced prisoners.
One can argue that this virtually quintupled number of prisoners only during the rule of this government, an unprecedented occasion in our country’s history, accounts for a summary of recent developments in the country on another level as well.
27 March 2019:
20 March 2018:
Record increase in Turkish prison populations – Council of Europe
Data released in an annual Council of Europe report has revealed an explosion in the prison population of Turkey, with a record increase of 161.7% from 2006-2016. The SPACE report, released on Mar. 20 2018, shows that Turkey had the second highest proportion of prisoners out of the 47 participating member states of the Council of Europe, with 244.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, after Georgia, with 256.3. The average was just over 127 per 100,000.
Turkey also had a very high ratio of detainees who had not received their final sentence, with 90.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, equalling 37.1 percent of their total detainees. Turkey’s ratio was hugely greater than the average, 27 per 100,000 inhabitants, and second only to Albania’s at 103.2 per 100,000. The annual report, which is co-authored by the Council of Europe and the University of Lausanne, covers data during the period up to Sep. 1 2016.
The figures therefore may have been influenced by arrests carried out during the state of emergency since the failed coup attempt in July that year, and may not accurately reflect current figures after over a year of further emergency rule.
At 27.8 percent, the highest number of custodial sentences are handed out in Turkey for those convicted of theft. Drug offences make up 23.9 percent of custodial sentences, then homicide at 22.2 percent. The daily expenses per inmate in Turkish prisons at 21 euros is far below the European average of 108.59. To read the SPACE 2016 executive summary in full, click here .
20 January 2018