CoE’s torture committee calls for limiting number of inmates and promoting non-custodial measures

Photo: Archive

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has called on European countries to set a limit on the number of inmates in prisons and to promote non-custodial measures.

In its annual report published on April 21, the CPT underlined that the problem of overcrowding persists in many prison systems, especially in facilities accommodating remand prisoners.

The report recalls that prison overcrowding is mainly the result of strict penal policies, often a more frequent and longer use of remand detention, lengthier prison sentences and still limited use of alternative measures to imprisonment.

In 2021 the CPT carried out nine periodic visits (Austria, Bulgaria, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom) and six ad hoc visits to examine specific issues (Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece and Romania).

Turkey had the second-highest prison population rate of the 47 CoE member states as of January 2021, with 325 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the 2021 CoE Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations report, better known as SPACE I.

Based on that European median value, the report categorized Turkey as among the countries with “very high” incarceration rates, over 25 percent higher than the European average.

In addition to Turkey, the category also included Russia, the country with the highest prison population rate of 328 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, Georgia (231), Azerbaijan (215), Slovak Republic (192), Lithuania (190), Czech Republic (180), Hungary (180), Poland (179), Estonia (176), Albania (162), Latvia (160), Moldova (160), Serbia (153), Scotland (135), Montenegro (135) and UK: England & Wales (131).

The CoE report revealed that Turkey had the sixth most crowded prisons in Europe, with 108 inmates per 100 available places on January 31, 2021 and 3.9 prisoners for every prison staff member, the highest figure among the 47 countries.

According to SPACE I data, 32,006 people convicted of a terrorism-related crime are currently behind bars, and 30,555 of these people, or 95 percent, are in Turkish prisons, the Nordic Monitor website reported.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has allocated 8.7 billion lira for the construction of 36 new prisons in the next four years, which will significantly increase Turkey’s already high incarceration rate. The number of Turkish penal institutions will increase to 419 in 2025. There are currently 383 prisons in the country.

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