Prison in Turkey

Turkey releases thousands of prisoners to avoid coronavirus infections

Authorities fear that a coronavirus outbreak among the inmate population could be uncontrollable due to overcrowding in many prisons. The measure will not apply to the most serious crimes.

The Turkish parliament has approved a law that will allow the release of tens of thousands of prisoners from prisons with the aim of avoiding overcrowding in prisons and preventing the spread of the coronavirus among the nearly 300,000 convicts in the country.

Supported by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist MHP partners, the motion was approved by 279 votes in favor and 51 against, and will affect some 100,000 prisoners for all kinds of crimes except those related to terrorism, sexual abuse, drugs, murders and gender violence.

Legislation decrees house confinement for convicts released over the age of 65 – as is the case for the rest of the population – as well as for women with children up to the age of 6, and for those prisoners who need special care. Prisoners who have newborn children and have been sentenced to a maximum of 3 years in prison may serve the rest of their sentence in house arrest.

In addition, a reduction of sentences is established for minors. On the other hand, those who have been sentenced to 10 or more years in prison will be transferred to minimum security prisons with the approval of the judicial authority, especially if they have a history of good conduct or are eligible for parole.

On Monday Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül confirmed that several coronavirus infections had already been detected among prisoners, including 3 killed by COVID-19, and that 79 prison officials have tested positive in addition to 80 judicial staff members. Turkish authorities fear that an outbreak of the disease among the prison population could be uncontrollable due to overcrowding in many prisons.