2 wards under quarantine in Denizli Prison as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Turkish penal institutions

Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash

Two women’s wards have been placed under quarantine in western Turkey’s Denizli Prison as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country’s notoriously overcrowded detention facilities, the Bold Medya news website reported.

The families of approximately 50 prisoners in the quarantine wards say they are not able to get enough information about the condition of their loved ones.

“I can’t get any updates about my wife. I tried everything but to no avail,” one man said. “They only say, ‘If their conditions get worse and they are hospitalized, we will let you know.’ But the last time we talked over the phone, her voice didn’t sound good.”

According to the family member, the wards in question are built to accommodate eight inmates but currently host 20 to 25 people due to overcrowding.

There has also been news of COVID-19 cases in the men’s wards of the same prison. A woman said her husband was hospitalized for COVID-19 and stayed in a quarantine ward for two weeks after he was discharged.

“We were supposed to have a phone call yesterday, but the prison authorities said they are back in quarantine after some inmates tested positive,” she said.

COVID-19, which has been rapidly spreading in the country, has presented greater concerns in Turkey’s prisons, which were already notorious for human rights abuses, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions before the pandemic.

According to Yunus Alkaç, director general of Prisons and Detention Centers, 50 inmates have died of COVID-19 in Turkey’s jails since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country in March 2020.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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