Justice Ministry says 69,301 students behind bars in Turkey

Turkey’s Justice Ministry has announced that 69,301 students were currently behind bars in Turkish prisons, reported by Bianet on Monday.

Responding to parliamentary inquiry of Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, a deputy from Turkey’s main apposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on imprisoned students, Justice Ministry has stated that there were 69,301 students in prisons in total who have still been continuing their education.

It was reported that at least 22,000 inmates are forced to sleep on jail floors as the number of prisoners reaches more than 224,000 for the first time in Turkey’s history. According to the report, 202,000 inmates can be accommodated in current prisons, in which more than 224,000 prisoners are staying, forcing 22,000 to sleep on jail floors.

According to the the statement of Turkey’s Justice Ministry, there were 197,297 prisoners in penal institutions and the number of student prisoners constitute 35 percent of all the prisoners as of November 2016. 36,033 of these 69,301 students behind bars are registered to high schools and their equivalents or to an undergraduate programme. 33,268 others are registered to an open/distance education faculty.

According to the data given by the Justice Ministry, there were 2,776 students in prisons as of May 2013. This figure has increased to 69,301 by the end of 2016.

Stating that the number of students in prison has hit the highest in the history of Turkey, İlgezdi said that “The barriers to exercising the right to education should be removed for the students behind the bars and they should be allowed to get unconditional education free of charge.”

In a report on the students in prisons, İlgezdi listed the main problems the imprisoned students are facing as follow: Difficulties in renewing the registration for the new school-year; Difficulties to cover the cost of education due to lack of financial possibilities; Student in prison who miss on classes with compulsory attendance and are not considered ‘excused’ cannot pass the courses or are being expelled due to absence; Students whose legal process continues lose their rights to education due to absence, the inability to renew registration and enter exams; Attending an exam turns into a great challenge/financial difficulty for most of the students; Problems are being experienced in providing necessary vehicles to take the students to their universities/schools and the students mostly have to pay a massive amount of money to cover the costs of these ring-shuttles.

According to the report of İlgezdi, most of the student’s university/school is far way from the prison they are in. The fact that they are being kept in prisons which are in a different province than their university/school and that their request of being transferred are being rejected, takes away their right to education. Moreover, the fact that there are no rooms, libraries, computers, internet and etc. is not in compliance with the principle of equality in the Constitution.

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