Turkey builds 47 new prisons during state of emergency; 11 more to open

Turkish government has opened 47 new prisons in last 14 months since the state of emergency (OHAL) declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and constructions are underway to open another 11 new prisons, reported by BirGün daily.

Thousands of people were taken into custody with the pretext of the controversial coup attempt and were arrested with the request of the autocratic Erdoğan regime rather than legal reasons. After the arrests, there was no room left in the prisons.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which opened 38 prisons in 2016, opened nine new prisons  up to September in 2017, according to the data shared by the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses. While 49 new prisons were opened in total during the 14 months of the OHAL, constructions are being carried on to open 11 new prisons by the end of 2017 according to the information contained in the annual report of the Directorate.

It was reported that the Directorate has demanded “the number of prisons and detention centers should be decreased rapidly to reduce operating costs, to increase quality of service and modern execution” and asked to stop increasing the capacity. However, with the new prisons opened in 2017, the total capacity of imprisonment has reached to 207,338 people.

In the last 10 years, a total of 148 new penal execution institutions were opened and 129,578 capacity increase was provided. However, due to the number of arrested and convicted people reaching 224,878 at least 17,540 people have reportedly no place to sleep in Turkey’s prisons.

On the other hand, over the past years, the process of moving the prisons to the central metropolitan area has continued. In 2017, 9 new prisons opened in the metropolitan cities while the Directorate has closed 7 county prisons in 2017 due to the inappropriate physical conditions, the lack of training and improvement activities. In the last 10 years, the total number of prisons closed for the same reason in Turkey has reached 204.

Kenan İpek, the Undersecretary of Turkey’s Justice Ministry, has stated on September 5, 2017 that Turkish government is building more than 50 new prisons for the alleged members of the Gülen movement. Speaking to journalists during a reception held on the occasion of the start of judiciary year in Turkey, İpek has said that the capacity of each prisons will be for 1000 prisoners.

It was reported by the Artı Gerçek online news outlet 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.

A Cumhuriyet daily report has also said the budget assigned to prisons is more than the budget of many ministries as the annual cost of incarcerating more than 224,000 prisoners is TL 6 billion 402 million.

In the meantime, by means of recently issued new decrees, 3,000 more convicts will be released immediately on probation unless they were convicted of terrorism, sexual crimes or coup involvement. In addition, a total of 10,000 convicts will move from closed to open prisons. In August 2016, Turkey had released 38,000 convicts from prisons to make room for victims of an ongoing purge in overcrowded jails.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Justice Ministry announced that out of 381 prisons in Turkey, 139 of them were built in the last 10 years and 38 were constructed last year.

Tens of thousands of people are replacing real criminals in Turkey’s prisons as a result of the purge that has been targeting journalists, businesspeople, academics, and others from all walks of life without due process.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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