Turkey tops list for incarcerations in Europe
Turkey has the highest incarceration rate in the Council of Europe, according to a report released by the international body on Thursday.
The report by Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE I) found Turkey had 297,019 prisoners as of January 2020, equating to 357.2 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, more than three times the European median rate of 103.2.
Russia, Georgia, Lithuania and Azerbaijan were the continents other top jailers, the Council of Europe said.
The number of prisoners in Turkey increased dramatically in the aftermath of 2016 failed coup. A subsequent crackdown by authorities has seen hundreds of thousands of people detained.
Turkey’s massive prison population included the highest number of children incarcerated alongside their mothers at 803. The figure was less than 100 in most other applicable countries. Russia had the second-highest total with 423.
Turkish prisons also ranked top in Europe for density, with 127.4 prisoners per 100 places, the Council of Europe said.
The Turkish Justice Ministry recently announced plans to build 26 new prisons in the country. There are currently 374 prisons in Turkey, over 90 of which were constructed in the last five years, according to the ministry.
An amnesty enacted last April saw one-third of the prison population freed to reduce overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Political prisoners have, however, been excluded from early release, including high profile figures such as Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş and liberal philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Like Demirtaş and Kavala, nearly 30,000 Turkish inmates are being held on terrorism charges, according to the Council of Europe. This equates to 11.9 percent of the total prison population, far higher than the European average of 0.5 percent.
The Council of Europe has repeatedly criticised Turkey’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation for failing to protect human rights.