The Turkish government, which plans to complete the construction of 18 new prisons by the end of the year, is now planning to build 20 more in 2023, which is expected to significantly increase Turkey’s already high incarceration rate, local media reported on Thursday.
Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday began debating the 2023 Central Government Budget Bill, which was submitted to parliament on Oct. 17.
The proposal for next year’s budget foresees the total funds allocated to the Justice Ministry to be TL 75.6 billion ($4 billion), up from TL 33.3 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2022, with over TL 90 million ($4.8 million) of it allocated to the Directorate General of Prisons and Houses of Detention (CTE).
Turkish media reports said the government’s budget plans for 2023 also include the construction of 20 new prisons in a country where some 314,000 inmates are currently held in 384 prisons that have the capacity to hold only 271,823 people, according to Justice Ministry data.
Turkey had the second-highest prison population rate after Russia of the 47 Council of Europe (CoE) member states as of January 2021, with 325 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, the 2021 CoE Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations, better known by the acronym SPACE I, showed earlier this year.
According to the report, there were 1,414,172 inmates in the penal institutions of the CoE member states for which data were 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.
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 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 Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, are the largest group targeted by Erdoğan.
A total of 117,208 people have been convicted while more than 600,000 have been the subject of investigation in Turkey due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said in July.