Kahraman Topaloğlu, the new warden of a notorious prison in İstanbul’s Silivri district, is imposing arbitrary restrictions in order to put psychological pressure on inmates, the Bold Medya news website reported, citing the families.
Topaloğlu restricted the items that inmates are able to buy with their own money from the prison canteen including processed meats and canned food. Inmates say they need to buy the food because they are given poor-quality meals, especially meat. Meat dishes smell so bad that they can’t eat them, the families said.
Some inmates submitted petitions complaining of arbitrary restrictions, which in turn led the prison administration to pressure them even more.
Blankets used by inmates as prayer mats were collected, and they were prohibited from putting anything on the floor. The wards are notoriously overcrowded, leading inmates to find different solutions to ensure their privacy when changing their clothes. They use bed sheets and create spaces between bunkbeds. Yet, additional sheets were also collected upon the instructions of the warden.
The amount of toilet paper they can use is also severely restricted. Only five rolls a week are allowed in wards that host 30-40 inmates.
Some of the existing problems were made worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmates are not allowed to pay for and receive services from private dentists who used to be allowed on the prison campus before the pandemic. Many have lost teeth because the prison dentists do not put in fillings or perform more complex procedures such as root canals and crowns. Instead, they pull the affected teeth out. Inmates as young as 25 lose their teeth as a result.
Inmates also complain about poor hygiene in dental offices. “The seat is stained with blood, the spit sink is bloody, they don’t provide paper towels,” the inmates say. There are even rumors that some inmates contracted HIV in prison.
According to the annual report of the Council of Europe, Turkey had the highest incarceration rate of the 47 member countries in 2020, with 357 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.
Turkey’s prison population rate has increased by 115.3 percent in the last 10 years, and it had the most crowded prisons in Europe, with 127 inmates per 100 available places on January 31, 2020. There are 297,019 inmates in the Turkish penal institutions despite the fact that their capacity is 233,194, the report said.