Turkey had the second-highest prison population rate of the 47 Council of Europe (CoE) member states as of January 2021, with 325 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, the ANKA news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a recent report released by the CoE.
According to the 2021 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations, better known by the acronym SPACE I, there were 1,414,172 inmates in the penal institutions of the CoE member states for which data are available on Jan. 31, 2021, corresponding to a European prison population rate of 102 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants.
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 also revealed that Turkey had the sixth most crowded prisons in Europe with 108 inmates per 100 available places on Jan. 31, 2021, with the ratio of inmates per one prison staff member being 3.9, the highest figure among the 47 countries.
The report further showed that Turkey had 272,115 inmates in 2021, with 12.5 percent of them aged 50 or over and 1.7 percent aged 65 or over. The percentage of foreign inmates was 3.8 and female inmates were 4, the report said, adding that 15.3 percent of the inmates in Turkey were not serving a final sentence last year.
Turkey, which allows children 6 years old or younger to stay with their mothers inside penal institutions, had 397 children living behind bars in 2021, the report said.
According to the report,17.2 percent of the inmates in Turkey were sentenced for drug offenses in 2021, while others were sentenced for homicide (13.8), theft (12.3), robbery (9), assault and battery (6.2), rape (3.8), other types of sexual offenses (3.8), economic/ financial offenses (3.5), road traffic offenses (2. 7) and other offenses (21.1).
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.
Mass detentions and arrests have been taking place in Turkey since a coup attempt in July 2016. The AKP government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.
Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who embarked on a massive crackdown on the opposition after the coup attempt, of using the incident as a pretext to quash dissent.
Human Rights Watch says people alleged to have links to the Gülen movement, inspired by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, are the largest group targeted by Erdoğan.
A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Nov. 22.