Prisons in Turkey

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Like in many other countries prisoners are separated a remanded prisoners (in pre-trial detention) and convicted prisoners (serving their sentences or whose sentences are being executed). The basic three types of prisons are closed, semi-open or open prisons. A difference is made between ordinary closed prisons and high security prisons. Many prisons have separate block for women and some also for children (juveniles), but there are also prisons for women or children alone.


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

Besides the death penalty the Penal Code of 1858 included sentences were: rowing in a galley (kürek), pillorying (prangabentlik) and imprisonment in a tower.

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.

The time between 1980 to 2000

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 (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. Since 1986 relatives of prisoners organized in the Human Rights Association (HRA) or in groups in solidarity with certain prisoners such as TYAYAD). 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.

The time since 2000

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.[1] 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).

Facts and Figures

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.

Year Convicted On remand
Ordinary Terror” Sum Ordinary Terror” Sum Total
1990 27731 1642 29373 14488 1745 16233 45,606
1991 10652 395 11047 14760 1044 15804 26,851
1992 12301 522 12823 15597 3062 18659 31,482
1993 14300 847 15147 14681 4977 19658 34,805
1994 15787 1094 16881 15638 6412 22050 38,931
1995 20371 1637 22008 17058 7025 24083 46,091
1996 24651 2328 26979 17697 6207 23904 50,883
1997 32155 4179 36334 19346 4926 24272 60,606
1998 31647 4239 35886 19670 4835 24505 60,391
1999 37986 6145 44131 19953 3497 23450 67,581
2000 20378 4467 24855 20467 4190 24657 49,512
2001 22425 5116 27541 24886 3182 28068 55,609
2002 25514 5123 30637 25928 2622 28550 59,187
2003 28554 4161 32715 29605 1976 31581 64,296
2004 23840 2170 26010 30302 1618 31920 57,930
2005 22765 2093 24858 29475 1537 31012 55870
2006 24220 2116 26336 42222 1719 44141 70,477
2007 34852 2418 37608 47091 2102 53,229 90,837
2008 42234 2540 45207 50470 2899 58028 103,235

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".

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 2295 6 wards.
B 16 64 1068 7 wards and 2 disciplinary cells; each ward has its own space for taking fresh air (havalandırma).
C 7 164-300 1696 8 wards and 4 disciplinary cells.
D 2 750 1732 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 (müsahade; 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[2] 45 600-1000 29753 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 4966 See F-type Prisons (Turkey)
H 5 500 3255 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 1446 Like type K1 with 6 wards and 2 disciplinary cells.
L 16 15084 Closed prisons, built in big cities in place of old prisons. There are units for 7 people measuring 208.93 sqm in total, cells have 12.45 sqm, exercise yards have 65.19 sqm and common living space is 56.59 sqm. 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 idividual cells.
M 24 9107 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[3] 4 616 6277 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 sqm. The sleeping space for 8 people (upper floor) is 28 sqm and the living space (lower floor) 32.5 sqm. For the exercise 8 people have a yard of 35 sqm und 3 people of 30 sqm. The sports hall measures 494 sqm and outside 251 sqm. 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).
(g) 23 6277
(o) 28 6405
(o) 38 2617

Comments of international institutions

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.[4] 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.[5] 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[6] (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);



  1. See the page F-type Prisons (Turkey) for further details
  2. 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
  3. T-type prisons can be found in Bakırköy Metris No. 1, Bakırköy Metris No. 2, Ümraniye and Erzurum/Oltu
  4. See two articles in the daily Hürriyet of 14.12.2000 and of 17.03.2001
  5. the complete report accessed on 25 August 2009
  6. report of December 2005