38 new prisons built last year, 76 under construction, 113 in planning process

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The Turkish Justice Ministry has announced that out of 381 prisons in Turkey, 139 of them were built in the last 10 years and 38 were constructed last year, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, 201,177 prisoners are currently being held in the prison system, 2,800 of whom are children between 12 and 17 years of age.

Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Basri Bağcı informed Parliament in May that Turkish prisons are currently 9 percent over capacity, saying that some inmates have to sleep in shifts.

“There are currently 221,607 inmates in prisons. Prison capacity is 203,000, making them 9 percent over capacity,” said Bağcı during a presentation to the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission.

Adding that the government is trying to balance the situation by increasing the number of people and beds in some prisons, Bağcı said: “This creates other problems. The critics on this issue are right. Due to overcrowding they used to sleep in shifts. Despite the fact that the problem has eased, this still continues.”

Bağcı also said the government plans to increase prison capacity by 11,000 by the end of 2017. Seventy-six prisons are under construction, 113 prisons are in process and 18 more are planned.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Şafak Pavey, who has shared her impressions from visits she paid to some well-known prisons in Turkey, on Tuesday said there is widespread maltreatment, insult and torture of inmates in the prisons.

“From what I have seen [during prison visits], I am of the belief that there has not been any period in Turkey when heavier rights violations of inmates and convicts took place. Social, administrative and illegitimate pressure [on prisoners] is at unprecedented levels. Different from what happened in other [state of emergency] periods, human rights violations have been institutionalized during this period, and they have been made to gain legitimacy not only politically but also socially,” wrote Pavey.

In an unprecedented decision, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government decided last August to largely empty prisons as no room was left for victims of the most extensive purge and witch-hunt the nation has ever witnessed, which has been ongoing in the post-coup period since July 15, 2016.

Although Minister of Justice Bozdağ refused to call the releases a pardon, the public has expressed discontent with release of serious offenders.

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.

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