Open prisons instead of pardons to decrease prison population

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 24.08.2015 20:37

Facing a capacity problem in prisons, Turkish authorities moved to ease conditions for convicts to transfer to open or minimum-security prisons.

A new regulation enacted by the Justice Ministry decreased the requirement for transfer to open prisons to serve out one-fifth of a sentence to one-tenth.

Under the new regulation, convicts with good conduct while serving out their sentences will be eligible for transfer. Time spent in open prisons allows for a reduction in sentences as a 2012 regulation allows convicts to be released one year earlier than their original release date if they spend at least six months in an open prison. Under the new regulation, which took effect last week, for instance, a convict sentenced to 18 months will be released after spending 54 days in an open prison.

For convicts who were handed down heavier sentences, the requirement of serving six years to be eligibile for release on parole was changed to seven years.

Open prisons offer a more relaxed prison environment for convicts and is more focused on convicts' rehabilitation with permission for convicts to take up employment inside the prison. Perimeter security does not exist in open prisons and their capacity is less than 500 people, unlike other prisons. Convicts are also eligible to spend one or more days outside the prison. There are 35 open prisons in Turkey.

Prisons in Turkey, largely emptied after a nationwide pardon in 2000, are now nearing capacity with only 3,000 vacancies available according to the latest figures.

The total capacity of prisons in the country is currently 159,475, and they will likely work over capacity as occupancy rates have tripled.

According to 2000 to 2014 figures, the number of prisoners peaked in 2014, rising from 144,178 in 2013.

Embattled with the rising figures, the Justice Ministry is constantly building new prisons. Currently, there are 365 correctional facilities in the country.

Overcrowded prisons became a thing of the past in the early 2000s following both the amnesty law and a new penal code facilitating releases pending trial. The implementation of a new regulation enabling the suspension of prison sentences further contributed to the release of people convicted of petty crimes. The subsequent reforms on release with judicial review also helped facilitate the decline in Turkey's prison population.

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