With Erdogan in power, Turkey's prison population grew by 118%

In 2021, the year-on-year increase is 11.6 per cent, with the total number of inmates just under 300,000. Institutions are overcrowded, with 30 thousand fewer places available than the actual population. 96.1% of prisoners are male, 3.9% are female.



Ankara (AsiaNews) - In the last decade in Turkey, characterised by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's leadership and the reform of the state in a presidential key, the prison population has grown by 118%.

At the end of last year, there were almost 300,000 prisoners in a nation of 84 million people. According to official data from the General Directorate of Criminal Records and Statistics of the Ministry of Justice, the number of those arrested or detained in pre-trial detention in the country's various prisons increased by 11.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year (with a total of 297,860). 

Comparing the figures from a decade ago, before Erdogan came to the presidency as prime minister at the time, the total prison population was 136,638. The figures also show a real emergency with regard to the overcrowding of penal institutions, because Turkey's 386 prisons can accommodate a maximum of 270,068 inmates, some 30,000 fewer than those actually present today. 

As of 21 December 2021, more than 87 per cent of the prisoners had already been tried and sentenced, while 12.8 per cent were in pre-trial detention awaiting trial. The approximately 260,000 prisoners were convicted on more than 907,000 indictment counts.

With regard to gender, 96.1% of the prisoners were male and 3.9% female. With regard to nationality, 96 per cent are Turkish citizens (just over 285,000), while about 12,000 prisoners are of foreign origin. The figure for prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants was 352 in 2021, up from 219 in the previous year. Last year, 428 out of 100 thousand persons over the age of 12 ended up in a cell for having committed a crime.

Among the prisoners, 24.6 per cent were sentenced for theft, 8.8 per cent for violation of the duty of residence, 7.1 per cent for intentional harm, 6.4 per cent for manufacture or distribution of drugs or stimulants and 5 per cent on the basis of the offence of damage to property. In addition, there are more than 14,000 prisoners for child abuse (114 women) and 5,095 prisoners for sexual violence (49 women).

In 2021, 270,001 persons ended up in cells, with a total of 450,043 criminal proceedings against approximately 240,000 released persons. The balance between entrances and exits shows an increase of about 30,000 in the prison population on an annual basis. 

In the 12-17 age group, 999 persons were sentenced and put in prison last year. On 31 December, there were 1,817 children in the country's prisons. Of these, 122 were aged between 12-14 and 1,695 were aged between 15 and 17. There were just over 5,100 inmates aged over 65 in total, while the majority of prisoners (108,855) were aged between 25 and 34.

The number of prisons in Turkey was 382 in 2016 and rose to 386 in 2017, then to 389 in 2018. In 2019, it dropped to 362 before rising again to 370 in 2020. At the end of last year, there were 384 prisons in the country. Capacity in terms of beds increased from 202,675 in 2016 to 270,068 in 2021. During the same period, the number of prison staff increased from 48,764 to 66,691.