Prisons in Turkey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are three types of prison in Turkey: closed, semi-open, and open. A further distinction is made between ordinary closed prisons and high-security prisons. Many prisons have separate blocks (or wings) for women and some also for children (juveniles), but there are also some prisons which are exclusively for women or children. Prisoners in Turkey are divided, as in many other countries, into remand prisoners (those being held in pre-trial detention) and convicted prisoners (whose sentences are being carried out).


In the Ottoman Empire prisons were called dungeons (zindan). In Turkey, these were mostly dark and damp towers.[1] The first prison was built in Sultanahmet quarter of Istanbul and it was called general prison (Hapishane-i Umumi).[2]

Historic Dungeon of Bodrum/Muğla inside Bodrum Castle built by Knights Hospitaller.

Besides the death penalty the Penal Code of 1858 included three different types of sentences: rowing on a galley (kürek), pillorying (prangabentlik) and imprisonment in a tower (kalebentlik).[3]

The Penal Code of 1 March 1926 (Law 765) made a difference between heavy crimes and corresponding sentences (ağır suç and ağır ceza) and light crimes (hafif suç and hafif ceza). Besides offences (cürüm) there is a separate law on infringements (kabahat). By Law 5349 dated 11 May 2005 the differentiation between light and heavy sentences was lifted.

Between 1980 and 2000[edit]

On 12 September 1980 the military seized power in Turkey and the five generals (General Staff) announced martial law in all of the then existing 67 provinces. Members of armed and unarmed left and right organizations that had been engaged in bitter fighting were charged at military courts and in some places held in military prisons. The military prison Mamak in Ankara, Metris Prison (in Istanbul) and the prison in Diyarbakır[4] (often called dungeon) gained notoriety.

Because of the large number of prisoners new prisons were built. In a report of November 1988, Amnesty International said that the number of prisons had increased to 644 and their capacity had been raised from 55,000 to more than 80,000.[5] Since 1986 relatives of prisoners organized in the Human Rights Association (HRA) or in groups in solidarity with certain prisoners such as TAYAD).[6] With their help the prisoners tried to make their demands for improved prison conditions for which they frequently went on hunger strike (often also called death fast) public.

In April 1991 Law 3713 on Fighting Terrorism (called Anti-Terror-Law, ATL) was passed. Article 16 provided that all prisoners charged under this law had to be held in high security prisons.

Since 2000[edit]

A map of incarceration rates by country[7]

In 1996 the political prisoners succeeded in their objection to be transferred to the first high security prison in Eskişehir (it was called "special type prison"). Their death fast resulted in the death of 12 prisoners. In 2000 a similar action against the high security prisons (now called F-type Prisons) was not successful, although the death toll was much higher.[8] There are currently 13 F-type prisons (14, if the prison on İmralı Island is added) and two D-type prisons (also high security prisons). The prison population statistics show an immense rise from the year 2000 through 2016.[9] In 2000, the combined number of imprisoned individuals was 49,512.[9] In the year 2016, that number has increased to 200,339.[9] On this date, the rate of incarceration was 285 prisoners per 100,000 Turkish residents.[9] In November 2018, the total incarceration rate increased to 260,000 people.[9] This number incorporates pre-trial convicts.[9] The prison population rate is 318, this number is per 100,000 of the national population.[9] An estimated national population of November 2018 is 81.68 million.[9] The maximum space of the prison system is 220,000 possible detainees as of November 2018.[9] As of November 2018, the occupancy level is at 118.2%.18.2% over capacity.[9]

Facts and figures[edit]

According to the General Directorate for Penal and Arrest Centres (Ceza ve Tevkifevleri Genel Müdürlüğü, part of the Ministry of Justice) 384 prisons existed in Turkey as of 1 December 2008. 346 of them were closed and 28 were open prisons. In addition there were three closed and one open prison for women and three correctional centres for children. For the same date the number of prisoners was given as 103,296; among them 44,038 on remand and 59,258 convicts.

On the homepage of the General Directorate for Penal and Arrest Centres figures on prisoners can be found on the number of prisoners for each year. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey has included such figures in their annual reports.[10]

Year Convicted On remand Total
Ordinary "Terror" Sum Ordinary "Terror" Sum
1990 27,731 1,642 29,373 14,488 1,745 16,233 45,606
1991 10,652 395 11,047 14,760 1,044 15,804 26,851
1992 12,301 522 12,823 15,597 3,062 18,659 31,482
1993 14,300 847 15,147 14,681 4,977 19,658 34,805
1994 15,787 1,094 16,881 15,638 6,412 22,050 38,931
1995 20,371 1,637 22,008 17,058 7,025 24,083 46,091
1996 24,651 2,328 26,979 17,697 6,207 23,904 50,883
1997 32,155 4,179 36,334 19,346 4,926 24,272 60,606
1998 31,647 4,239 35,886 19,670 4,835 24,505 60,391
1999 37,986 6,145 44,131 19,953 3,497 23,450 67,581
2000 20,378 4,467 24,855 20,467 4,190 24,657 49,512
2001 22,425 5,116 27,541 24,886 3,182 28,068 55,609
2002 25,514 5,123 30,637 25,928 2,622 28,550 59,187
2003 28,554 4,161 32,715 29,605 1,976 31,581 64,296
2004 23,840 2,170 26,010 30,302 1,618 31,920 57,930
2005 22,765 2,093 24,858 29,475 1,537 31,012 55,870
2006 24,220 2,116 26,336 42,222 1,719 44,141 70,477
2007 34,852 2,418 37,608 47,091 2,102 53,229 90,837
2008 42,234 2,540 45,207 50,470 2,899 58,028 103,235

Meanwhile, the statistics also include the category "crimes to increase profit" (tr: çıkar amaçlı suçlar, meaning organized crime, punishable according to Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code). Since 2010 the cases that could not be attributed to a specific group were also included.[11]

Years Convicted On remand
Ordinary Terror Organized Unclear Sum Ordinary Terror Organized Unclear Sum Total
2009 53067 2967 547 56581 52512 3361 3886 59759 116340
2010 80440 3682 993 1451 86566 29676 2535 1566 471 34238 120814
2011 86542 4179 907 989 92617 29901 4266 1372 448 35987 128604

On 31 January 2010 the official figures were:[12]

Year Convicted On remand Total
Ordinary "Terror" Sum Ordinary "Terror" Sum
2010 53,805 3,051 56,856 57,024 3,254 60,691 117,547

The following figures were presented for 31 March 2012:[13]

Group On remand Under review Convicted Total
Organized crime
Total 36.273

In June 2010 Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin answered a question tabled by Batman deputy Bengi Yıldız. He stated that between 2010 and 2015 a total of 86 new prisons with a capacity of 40.026 prisoners were to be built.[14]

Prison types[edit]

Using the official material of the General Directorate for Penal and Arrest Centres the Democratic Turkey Forum prepared a table on prisons in Turkey as of October 2008. Further details have been included as "particulars". [15]

Sinop E-type Prison
Type Number Capacity (single) Capacity (complete) Particulars
A 21 24-30 792 Prisons built in district between the 1950s and 1970s. There are 4 wards (koğuş), bathroom, kitchen, library and a conference hall.
A1 16 24-40 508 Further to type A: there are two cells and room next to the wards that can be used as a kitchen.
A2 17 40 744 5 wards and 2 disciplinary cells.
A3 31 60 2,295 6 wards.
B 16 64 1,068 7 wards and 2 disciplinary cells; each ward has its own exercise yard (havalandırma).
C 7 164-300 1,696 8 wards and 4 disciplinary cells.
D 2 750 1,732 11 blocks, one block for administration; 230 rooms (cells). Block E is for communal use (laundry, library etc.). The lower floors of block H and L consist of disciplinary cells. The first and second floor of block G have 10 rooms each for observation (müşahade) on arrival. This block also has two infirmaries with 10 beds each. These prisons are built on the system of individual cells and cells for three people.
E[16] 45 600-1,000 29,753 Built on two floors based on the ward (koğuş) system and later changed to rooms for 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 persons. Each room has its own exercise yard. The lower floors are for eating; the upper floors are the dormitories.
F 13 368 4,966 See F-type Prisons (Turkey)
H 5 500 3,255 Built on two floors on the room (cell) system. There are 200 individual cells and 100 cells for 3 persons.
K1 83 60 3553 They are found in districts with 4 wards and 2 disciplinary cells. Each ward has its own exercise yard.
K2 24 60-150 1,446 Like type K1 with 6 wards and 2 disciplinary cells.
L 16 15,084 Closed prisons, built in big cities in place of old prisons. There are units for 7 people measuring 208.93 m2 (2,248.9 sq ft) in total, cells have 12.45 m2 (134.0 sq ft), exercise yards have 165.19 m2 (1,778.1 sq ft) and common living space is 56.59 m2 (609.1 sq ft). Cells are closed at night; during the day 7 prisoners are together. There are 61 units for 7 people, 4 rooms for 3 people and 40 individual cells.
M 24 9,107 These prisons that were built on two floors in the ward system, cells for 4, 6, 8, 10 people were made. Each room has its own exercise yard. The prisons have 6 disciplinary cells.
T[17] 4 616 6,277 They were built in big cities in place of old prisons. There are 72 rooms for 8 prisoners, 8 rooms for 3 prisoners and 16 individual cells of 16 sqm. The (living and sleeping) room for 3 people measures 27 m2 (290 sq ft). The sleeping space for 8 people (upper floor) is 28 m2 (300 sq ft) and the living space (lower floor) 32.5 m2 (350 sq ft). For the exercise 8 people have a yard of 35 m2 (380 sq ft) und 3 people of 30 m2 (320 sq ft). The sports hall measures 494 m2 (5,320 sq ft) and outside 251 m2 (2,700 sq ft). There is space for 450 people during open visits and 36 people for closed visits. Room for 32 lawyers meeting their clients exists.
F(o) 1 350 350 open prison for women
F(c) Paşakapısı closed prison for women; Paşakapısı and Bakırköy are in Istanbul
Bakırköy 506 construction started in 2008; 38 units for 12 people each; 2 units for 3 people and 44 individual cells.
Sincan 352 District close to Ankara, 24 units for 12 people each, 12 units for 3 people each, 28 individual cells.
K(c) 3 366 closed prison for children
K(e) 3 100-250 360 education centre for children; juveniles aged 12 to 18 are held here. In case an education was continuing at the age of 18 permission can be given to stay longer (up to the age of 21).
(c) 23 6,277
(o) 28 6,405
(o) 38 2,617

Comments of international institutions[edit]

Besides NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has frequently dealt with the situation in Turkish prisons. A major concern were the F-type prisons, the high security prisons that the CPT encouraged Turkey to build.[18] and the situation on the island İmralı, where Abdullah Öcalan has been the only prisoner since 1999.

On 6 March 2008 a report was published on a visit to the island between 19 and 22 May 2007.[19] This was the fourth visit. In conclusion the CPT said (in para 31.): Abdullah Öcalan has now been imprisoned, as the sole inmate of the High-Security Closed Prison of Imralı - an island which is difficult to reach - for almost eight and a half years. Although the situation of indisputable isolation to which the prisoner has been subjected since 16 February 1999 has had adverse effects over the years, the CPT's previous visits had not revealed significant harmful consequences for his physical and psychological condition. This assessment must now be revised, in the light of the evolution of Abdullah Öcalan's physical and mental condition."

During visits to other facilities the CPT marked certain shortcomings. The report of 8 December 2005[20] (on a visit in 2004), for instance, included the following recommendations:

  • staff at Izmir (Buca) Closed Prison and the E-type prisons in Aydın and Gaziantep to be given a firm reminder that the ill-treatment of inmates is not acceptable and will be the subject of severe sanctions; it should be made clear to them that prisoners who breach discipline must be dealt with exclusively in accordance with existing disciplinary procedures and that any form of unofficial punishment will not be tolerated (paragraph 50).
  • the Turkish authorities to take all necessary steps to develop the communal activity programmes at Izmir F-type Prison No. 1, in terms of both the range of activities on offer and the number of prisoners engaging in those activities; in this connection, the remarks made in paragraphs 57 and 58 to be taken fully into account (paragraph 59);
  • immediate steps to be taken to ensure that every prisoner at Aydın and Gaziantep E-type Prisons has his/her own bed (paragraph 63);
  • the necessary steps to be taken to ensure that occupancy rates in all prisoner accommodation units at Aydın and Gaziantep E-type Prisons are of a reasonable level (paragraph 63);
  • the level of hygiene in prisoner accommodation areas at Gaziantep E-type Prison to be reviewed (paragraph 63).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See the Turkish Wikipedia
  2. ^ Dr. Cevdet YILMAZ: The Historical Castle-Prison of Sinop, published in Eastern Geographical Review, edition 22, page 6.
  3. ^ See an article of Dr. Mustafa AVCI, accessed on 18 August 2009
  4. ^ The website Diyarbakır zindanı Archived 2009-05-28 at the Wayback Machine offers many details (in Turkish)
  5. ^ AI Index: EUR/44/65/88 (November 1988). See an online edition in pictures
  6. ^ Background of the organization on a private homepage, accessed on 27 August 2009
  7. ^ Highest to Lowest. World Prison Brief (WPB). Use dropdown menu to choose lists of countries by region, or the whole world. Use menu to select highest-to-lowest lists of prison population totals, prison population rates, percentage of pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners, percentage of female prisoners, percentage of foreign prisoners, and occupancy rate. Column headings in WPB tables can be clicked to reorder columns lowest to highest, or alphabetically. For detailed information for each country click on any country name in lists. See also the WPB main data page and click on the map links and/or the sidebar links to get to the region and country desired.
  8. ^ See the page F-type Prisons (Turkey) for further details
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Turkey | World Prison Brief". Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  10. ^ The statistics of the General Directorate for Penal and Arrest Centres start in 1970 at the address The pages are ordered for 10 years each so that the years 2000-2009 can be found at "yillar4.asp".
  11. ^ In the table these categories are presented as "organized" and "unclear".
  12. ^ The figures were taken from a German source on the website of the Democratic Turkey Forum
  13. ^ The figures could be found on 20 May 2012 at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2012-05-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (in Turkish). On the same page it was mentioned that the capacity at the end of March 2012 did not cover 7,096 places.
  14. ^ See "Türkiye'de 86 yeni cezaevi yapılıyor". Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2010-06-10. Gündem Online of 8 June 2010
  15. ^ Demir, Halil (17 October 2017). "Cezaevi Tür ve Tipleri ve Özellikleri" (in Turkish). Değişik Bilgi. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  16. ^ E-type prisons exist in Adana, Adıyaman, Afyon, Amasya, Antalya, Aydın, Bitlis, Burdur, Bursa, Çanakkale, Çankırı, Diyarbakır, [Elazığ], Elbistan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Giresun, Gümüşhane, Hatay, İsparta, Kahramanmaraş, Kastamonu, Kırklareli, Kırşehir, Konya, Kütahya, Malatya, Manisa, Mardin, Mersin, Muğla, Muş, Nazilli, Nevşehir, Niğde, Ordu, Samsun, Siirt, Sinop, Sivas, Şanlıurfa, Trabzon, Uşak, Ümraniye and Yozgat
  17. ^ T-type prisons can be found in Bakırköy Metris No. 1, Bakırköy Metris No. 2, Ümraniye and Erzurum/Oltu
  18. ^ See two articles in the daily Hürriyet of 14.12.2000 and of 17.03.2001
  19. ^ the complete report accessed on 25 August 2009
  20. ^ "European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) - CPT -". CPT.

External links[edit]