Newsletter 5

The Covid-19 outbreak in Turkey’s prisons

Silivri prison/20 May 2020

The coronavirus outbreak behind bars continue to spread rapidly. It has been reported that at least 318 prisoners have been infected across Turkey. The justice ministry continues to refuse to transparently inform the public regarding this risky situation in prisons despite all the requests.

Particularly, many complaints have come out of the Silivri prison (in İstanbul) throughout the week about a rapid spread of infections and a systematic refusal on the part of authorities to conduct tests and hospitalization in a way that would reveal true extent of the problem. According to information obtained from relatives of prisoners held under inhumane conditions in the Silivri prison where at least 135 prisoners are believed to have been infected, conditions in prisons are as follows:

  • Cleaning materials and disinfectants are not being provided by authorities. Prisoners have no way of procuring them.
  • Meals are being distributed in open casseroles. Prisoners do not have access to heating equipment such as stoves, microwave ovens, toasters.
  • Daily meals are extremely low in nutritional value and protein.
  • Nutrients rich in protein and key to reinforcing the immune system such as milk, yoghurt, kefir, ayran, cheese, eggs, meat, chicken or fish are supplied extremely inadequately.
  • Loaves of bread are being distributed without a package and in unhygienic ways.
  • Products sold in the canteens are low in quality, sometimes expired.
  • Prisoners are provided with only one bedcover, towel and very few clothes, which insufficient for ensuring personal hygiene.
  • Prisoners are unable to wash their clothes in the washing machine at 60-70 degrees Celsius, which is the level required for hygiene purposes.
  • Laundry is picked up for washing by the prison officials once in 15 days. This duration has become even lengthier due to scarcity of personnel during the outbreak.
  • Laundry to be washed is being picked up in open nets. It is also brought back after washing in a way that expose them to other dirty objects.
  • Prisoners are unable to bring in new clothes as entry of objects have been halted for two months.
  • Prisoners still have to wear winter clothes despite the warming weather.
  • A quota that is imposed to prisoners allows them to have very few clothes in the dormitories, making them unable to change clothes frequently enough.
  • Drinking water comes out of old and rusty water pipes, causing health problems.
  • Some meals supplied by the prison administration has led to cases of food poisoning.
  • The number of prisoners still exceeds the official prison capacity by more than twice (even after the early release law enacted to ease prison overcrowding amid the outbreak).
  • Prisoners are allowed to make payphone calls to their family members once a week. Phones are commonly used by hundreds of prisoners.
  • Prisoners have been unable to have clear visits with family members for months.
  • Outdoor and sports activities have been restricted.
  • Meetings with lawyers have been made more difficult, rendering document exchange impossible.