The Civil Society Association in the Penal System (CİSST) has just released a report assessing the ‘Covid-10 pandemic’ health and safety procedures in place in 112 prisons in Turkey. It concluded that there was generally a shocking lack of access to masks and cleaning supplies. There was insufficient ventilation in many prisons and many prisoners were suffering from malnutrition during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since it was founded in 2006, CISST has sought to mobilize civil society to bring Turkey’s prisons in line with international standards, and to help Turkey’s penal system become more transparent and better connected with civil society.
CİSST’s report was based upon complaints from prisons between 1-15 September. According to the report, applications were received from 112 different prisons during the period of the coronavirus pandemic. The report draws attention to the severe problem of overcrowding in prisons.
The report’s authors concluded that hygiene conditions were not followed in many prisons: Not enough masks, soap, or hand sanitizers were provided, and prisoners were often denied access to basic cleaning materials. Wards were generally insufficiently ventilated because of small windows. It was emphasized that no soap was made available to the prisoners and prisoners were subjected to frequent water supply cuts.
The detainees’ access to the right to receive information was also generally denied during this period. Access to newspapers, radio, television, and books was denied in some prisons or was severely limited during the pandemic period in the case of many other prisons.
The food provided to the prisoners was a major concern: “The food given to some closed prisons is limited and of poor quality and unhygienic. The weight of the bread given has been reduced, and the meals provided are nutritionally insufficient. The items in the canteens are expensive and their nutritional quality is low. The products sold in the canteens of open prisons are more expensive than the products sold in closed prisons. Dietary food is not provided. Food selection is poor and vitamins and immune-strengthening supplements are not provided”.
The report highlighted the following concerns:
* Psychological pressure, verbal and physical violence against prisoners has increased due to the shift working system due to quarantine conditions imposed in prisons.
* Precautions are not taken for sick, elderly, and ‘at risk’ prisoners. In fact, cleaning materials are not provided generally, and prisoners have to take precautions themselves without institutional support.
* In some prisons, prisoners are not given their medication on time.
* There is a general lack of hospital referrals and regular treatment opportunities.
* Not allowing chronically ill prisoners to receive hospital treatment has led to an increase in their health problems. Many have been severely affected by this.
* Certain measures are taken by the prison authorities actually increased the risk of infection.
* In some prisons, single prisoners in quarantine were kept in areas without ventilation. Quarantine conditions has had a detrimental health impact on prisoners.
* In some prisons, attorney’s visits have been stopped for varying reasons.
The report also drew attention to the situation of seriously ill prisoners such as Mehmet Salih Filiz, Deniz Yıldırım, Abdulsamet Durak, and Mehmet Emin Özkan, who were not released despite requests to do so.