Number of inmates in Turkish prisons hits record high of 314K at end of March

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The number of inmates in Turkish prisons, which have the capacity to safely hold 271,823 people, has reached a record high of 314,512 as of the end of March, the Sözcü daily reported on Saturday, citing data from the Justice Ministry.

The latest data from the Directorate General of Prisons and Houses of Detention (CTE), part of the Ministry of Justice, revealed that there were 384 prisons in Turkey holding 314,512 people as of the end of March, more than 42,000 over capacity.

A total of 275,965 inmates have been convicted of a crime, while 38,537 are in pretrial detention, according to the CTE data. It further showed that 300,253 of the inmates were male and 12,173 were female, with 2,076 children accompanying their mothers behind bars.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had built 247 new prisons between 2006 and 2021, creating the capacity to incarcerate 199,911 more inmates, Sözcü said, adding that the government has spent over 20 billion lira in the last six years for the construction of new prisons, which has been accelerated due to a sharp increase in the number of prisoners following a coup attempt on 2016.

The AKP 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.

The Council of Europe’s latest annual report revealed that Turkey had the second-highest incarceration rate after Russia of the 47 CoE countries in 2021, with 325 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.

The CoE report also showed 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.

Mass detentions and arrests have been taking place in Turkey since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The AKP government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

Critics accuse President 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 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.

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